Month of September: “660 Curries” Recipe: Whole Black Lentils with Ginger, Garlic and Butter

“I seemed to have loved you in numberless forms, numberless times, in life after life, in age after age, forever.” Rabindranath Tagore

This curry is called makhani dal. There are amazingly over 130 legume curries alone. Legumes are basically seeds and they are the protein lifeline to the vegetarian diet since 4500 BC!! Here I learned that the black lentil is a Punjabi classic and a must at every special occasion. It’s easy to make and very filling with the fragrant garam masala (from previous post) and rich cream. I would suggest eating it on a cool day when you are very hungry.

The idea of a cool day conjures up an unforgettable memory of a special occasion in my life on an autumn day when Abby and her daughter Rita unexpectedly drove all night from Wisconsin to New York for my wedding. I was marrying Andrew, a man whom decades earlier I had met only a few short months before meeting Abby in the early eighties. I was also marrying for the first time that same man who is the father of my only child. In 2012 our son was 27 years old. Scratching your head on that one? Well that is a whole other story.

Abby made us a magical trellis of foraged bittersweet adorned with twinkle lights where underneath we cried our tears of forgiveness and redemption. She crafted my bouquet of salmon roses and pale green hydrangea that I still have now all dry and withered. What also made this day so extraordinary is that Andrew and I were getting back together after decades apart, after marrying and divorcing our first spouses, and Abby and I were reconnecting after nine years of silence. It was a reincarnation of forms and it felt like we all touched on something karmic. I can honestly say it was the happiest day of my life with so many loved ones around us. Unfortunately so many things from that day forward, unbeknownst to us all in this happy shared moment was one sadness or one tragedy after another. As Isak Dinesen writes “God made the world round so we would never be able to see too far down the road.”

Ingredients:1 cup whole black lentils, 1/4 cup ginger paste (I chopped fresh ginger into a paste), 2 tablespoons garlic paste ( I chopped garlic into a paste), 1/2 cup plain yogurt, 1/2 cup cream, 1.5 teaspoons sea salt, 1 teaspoon Punjabi garam masala (from earlier post),1/4 teaspoon cayenne, 2 to 3 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons of finely chopped cilantro

1.Place lentils in a large saucepan and rinse multiple times until water runs clear. Add 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Skim off any foam on top. Add the garlic and ginger paste and stir. Cook on low until tender, about 15-30 minutes. Watch to make sure water does not evaporate completely. Add a little more water if needed.

2. Blend the yogurt, cream, garam masala, salt and cayenne in a blender jar. Sauce will have brown and red specks.

3. When lentils are tender and most of the water is cooked off, add butter and stir until melted. Add the yogurt sauce to the lentils and mix. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with rice and or flabreads.

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