This is not much to look at, but what it lacks in eye appeal it makes up for in substance and flavor. Sweet onion and zucchini are sauteed, then mixed with garam masala and cooked red lentils. The lentils become quite tender, and the look of the dish is stewlike.
Don't let that be a turnoff. The garam masala, a mix of aromatic spices, blends with the ingredients to create a full-flavored dish that stands on its own either as a side dish or as a vegetarian entree.
The Indian flavors here are mild, just enough to add an Indian taste (not hot or overwhelming like some Indian dishes). You can find garam masala in any well-stocked supermarket, in either the Indian section or the spice aisle. Try more than one blend, because each has its own characteristics.
I can make a meal out of this dish, but it's also a good side dish for grilled poultry.
Servings: 4 - 6
- 1 or 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium (4 to 5 ounces) sweet onion, such as Vidalia, Walla Walla or any local variety labeled "sweet," finely chopped (1 cup)
- 3/4 pound thin zucchini, cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch dice (about 2 1/4 cups)
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus a pinch for the lentils' cooking water
- 1/2 cup dried red lentils, picked over to remove any foreign matter
- 1 to 2 teaspoons garam masala (see headnote)
- Leaves from 2 to 3 stems cilantro, chopped (2 tablespoons)
Add just enough oil to coat a medium saute pan or skillet; place over medium heat.
Add the onion and cook, stirring often, for 2 or 3 minutes, until it starts to soften. Add the zucchini and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Cook, stirring often, for about 10 minutes, until the zucchini softens and starts to brown. Adjust the heat as needed so the zucchini cooks but the onion does not burn.
Meanwhile, place the lentils in a small pot and add enough water to cover them by 2 inches, plus a pinch of salt. Place the pot over medium-high heat; once the liquid comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes; start checking for doneness after 6 minutes.
When the zucchini is tender and has started to brown, add 1 teaspoon of the garam masala; stir to combine, then taste and add garam masala and salt as needed.
Drain the lentils and add to the zucchini-onion mixture. Cook over medium-low heat for 2 or 3 minutes, until the excess moisture from the lentils has evaporated; the mixture should still be moist.
Remove from the heat and add 1 tablespoon of the cilantro; mix well. Transfer to a serving dish and top with the remaining tablespoon of chopped cilantro. Serve immediately.
From "Nourish" columnist Stephanie Sedgwick.
Tested by Stephanie Sedgwick.
E-mail questions to the Food Section at email@example.com.