golden red lentil dal

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yesterday, I had lunch with a friend who recently returned from vacation at an all-inclusive resort. he commented that usually, he becomes bored after days of sitting by the pool, but this time, he was able to truly enjoy the relaxation.

it got me thinking about the way I approach vacation – as a third culture kid, my vacations often involved traveling to visit family members on the west coast, in asia, or in australia. beyond seeing distant aunts, uncles, and cousins, my family would also make plans to tour the area, from biking the city wall of xi’an, eating and drinking our way through napa valley, to snorkeling on the great barrier reef. my childhood was filled with unfamiliar languages, half-remembered faces, and many new tastes, sights, and smells, and I soaked it all in.

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that restlessness has carried over from my childhood to today – one of my favorite things to do when I have the time is to just walk around whatever town I’m in. on sunday mornings back in philly, I’d walk half an hour to the headhouse farmer’s market, partially to check out all the local produce, but also to just clear my head with a brisk walk. now in d.c., I enjoy walking up to the dupont circle farmer’s market for the same reasons, and I usually choose to walk to my friends’ places in adams morgan and chinatown. I find that some of my best thinking happens during those long walks.

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the three gossips in arches national park

for my fall break, I headed out to moab, utah. hiking has long been one of my favorite things to do, as it combines two of my favorite activities: walking long distances and seeing new places. with each turn through the red rock labyrinth, with each new arch, I felt as if I was walking further and further away from the thoughts and worries that had been weighing me down.

a friend made this golden red lentil dal for me shortly before I left for moab. it’s a simple weeknight recipe with a beautiful flavor payoff and colors that remind me of the rust-red landscapes of arches national park. and this may be tmi, but after all the meaty tacos, chicken wings, osso bucco, burgers, and a startlingly small amount of vegetables consumed out in utah, this vegan dal has gone a long way in making my stomach feel human again.

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makes 5-6 servings

2 tbsp virgin coconut oil
1 1/2 cup diced onion (~1 medium onion)
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp freshly grated ginger
1 1/2 cup peeled carrots, finely diced (2-3 large carrots)
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 1/2 cup dried red lentils
1 14-oz can coconut milk
2 cup vegetable broth
1 cup water
salt & pepper, to taste
cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
honey or agave nectar, to taste (optional)
1 5-oz package baby spinach

angela liddon. golden red lentil dal with cilantro-speckled basmati. oh she glows. 12 october 2015. accessed 22 october 2018.

1 in a large pot over medium heat, melt coconut oil. add onion, garlic, and pinch of salt, then stir to combine. sauté, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4-5 minutes.
2 stir in ginger and carrots, then sauté until softened, 4-5 minutes.
3 stir in curry powder, cumin, and turmeric, and cook until fragrant (~1 minute).
4 add coconut milk, red lentils, broth, water, and 1/2 tsp salt. bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low. cook, covered with the lid ajar, until lentils and carrots are tender, 15-20 minutes. stir every few minutes to prevent lentils from sticking to the bottom. (add more broth/water if dal becomes too thick.)
5 remove pot from heat, then stir in spinach until wilted. add black pepper, salt, cayenne, and honey to taste.
6 serve over rice. (I cooked 2 cups of rice in water mixed with turmeric and cumin, then added ~1 cup finely chopped cilantro.) leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to a month.
 
*suggested toppings: a squeeze of lime juice, toasted pepita seeds, and/or toasted almonds.

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