Art Projects and Dal (Comfort food.)

After my somewhat melodramatic meltdown last post, I decided I needed some metaphorical chicken soup for my soul. And stomach. So I sat down, made an art project, and cooked some Indian food. Yes, fundraising is hard (click here to make it slightly easier for me!), but good food and markers always make things better.

Poem by Emily Dickinson

I’m not going to post a tutorial for the art project because, let’s face it, you all can figure out how to glue some paper together and write on it. (But I do have to give a special shout-out to my roomie for letting me use her stamps.) So, onto the food:

Dal is a staple in India (for good reason, because it’s awesome). Like any cultural staple there are multitudes of regional variations. This particular recipe is, I think, kind of a combination (principally influenced by what I had in my kitchen). Dal is essentially lentil soup, and is usually served with rice or naan (flat bread). But in all honesty, you can just do what I did and eat it straight with a spoon.

So, in this post about comfort, why did I choose dal? It’s my perfect comfort food: warm, filling, slightly mushy, spicy and full of flavor. [For the record, those adjectives also describe my grandma’s homemade applesauce, but as I wanted something savory (and didn’t have any apples), I opted for the dal.] Plus, lentils have a good amount of protein, and pairing them with brown rice makes for a respectably healthy meal. And as an added bonus, red lentils cook much more quickly than their green and brown friends. They also taste decidedly less like dirt.

I do have to give one more shout-out, this time to my mom, who recently took me to the best grocery store ever, which is where I was able to find red lentils. Whole Foods probably also has them. Keep your eyes open and I’m sure you’ll stumble into them one way or another.

Without further ado: Red Lentil Dal (adapted and combined from here and here)

Feel free to try different spice combinations. My rule of thumb: if you like the way they smell together, you’ll probably like the way they taste together. Try garlic, bay leaves, nutmeg, garam masala, fenugreek seeds, coriander seeds, curry powder, whatever strikes your fancy. For this amount of lentils, you’ll probably want at least 1 tsp of any spice, unless it’s something über spicy like cayenne.


  • 1 cup red lentils, rinsed and picked through (just make sure there aren’t any non-lentils masquerading as edible tidbits)
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tbsp vegetable/canola oil
  • 1 tsp sesame oil (I added this in because I had it – if you don’t have it, don’t sweat it)
  • 1/2 white or yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • dash cayenne
  • 1 16-oz. can diced tomatoes (or 1 can whole tomatoes, or 1 can crushed tomatoes, or actual tomatoes that you boil, peel, and chop yourself)
  • salt to taste


1. Put the lentils and 3 cups of water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer for approx. 10 mins, until lentils are tender.

2. After the lentils have begun to boil, chop your onion, measure your spices, and set another medium-large saucepan on the heat. Add the oil to it, and after it is fully heated, add the onion. Saute for approx. 3 mins, until translucent.

3. Add all spices. Cook for 1-2 mins, stirring frequently.

4. Add the cooked lentils and their cooking water. Cook for 10 mins. Add the tomatoes. Cook for another 3-4 mins, until the dal is the desired thickness. Salt to taste. Voila!

Total time: approx. 1 hour
Serves: 4-5


4 thoughts on “Art Projects and Dal (Comfort food.)

  1. Lentils in the cupboard. (Check.) Plus a number of said spices. (Check.) And temps will hover near freezing soon. I think Laura’s Red Lentil Dal just moved onto the weekend menu~! (Hope it turns out mushy like Grandma’s homemade applesauce!) 🙂

  2. Pingback: Dickinson & Kafka (Why I’m still doing this.) | Go Laura Go!

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