Red Lentil Dal with Tamarind and Asparagus by Naomi Duguid
It’s asparagus season, here in New York, which is one of my favorite times of year. I never liked these tender green stalks when I was growing up, as I’ve mentioned, but now I look forward to seeing them when they arrive in the farmers markets. It also means that I start pulling ideas from magazines and website as to how to prepare them aside from the usual steaming, grilling or sautéing. In this month’s issue of Food & Wine magazine there was an article about Naomi Duguid with a recipe for Red Lentil Dal with Tamarind and Asparagus.
The colors in the photo of the dish, plus the fact that I enjoy eating dal combined with the fact that I can now get my hands on some fat, juicy asparagus, made me tear out the recipe to try it. I found the asparagus at the Greenmarket, had a few of the spices in my kitchen already, and sourced the other ingredients from my neighborhood stores. The tamarind concentrate proved to be the hardest component to find, but I did locate it after going to about three places.
I’m trying to get more vegetables into my diet and am also attempting to eat less meat in general, so this dish fit those criteria. It was also a snap to pull together making it an ideal weeknight dinner or quick lunch. I cut this recipe in half, which gave me about two portions for a light midday meal.
As a side mention, if you, like me, religiously follow the list of ingredients in putting together your shopping notes, you will forget to pick up the limes that are listed in the recipe headnotes and at the end. I’m not sure why, but somehow they aren’t included with the main ingredients, even though Ms. Duguid mentions them as integral to the balance of flavors in the dish. I bring this up, as I thought that the freshness of the lime juice really brought the whole meal together.
Served with brown basmati rice and the juice of a sliver of lime, this dish was creamy, tart, fragrant, and earthy, with just a little sweetness from the onions. The spices provided an aromatic perfume that melted into the lentils, brightening up their sometimes drab nature. Next time, I might add more of the serrano to the dish to give it some additional heat and a bit of depth, but other than that (and the aforementioned lime issue), this dish seemed to me to be perfect in taste and texture. It’s definitely one I’ll be having during this asparagus season and many more in the future as well.