This is one of those remarkable dishes that manages to be both quick and complex-tasting at the same time—and with just a few ingredients. The key lies in cooking the lentils first, and then adding sautéed onion, carrot, and garlic toward the end of the cooking process, so you really taste their full flavor in every spoonful. Look for red lentils in the bulk section near the brown lentils. (They’re actually orange, not red, and turn a deep golden yellow when cooked. For some reason, they’re confusingly labeled.)
- 2 cups red lentils
- 8 cups water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium red or yellow onion, chopped
- 1 large carrot, diced
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 3 good-sized cloves)
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Lime wedges, for garnish
1. Combine the lentils and water in a soup pot of a Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, then turn the hear all the way down to the lowest possible setting. Partially cover, and simmer gently for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the lentils are completely soft.
2. Meanwhile, place a large (10- to 12-inch) skillet over medium heat. After about a minute, add the olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the onion, carrot, cumin, garlic, and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, or until the onion is golden and cery soft and the carrot is tender.
3. Transfer the onion mixture to the cooked lentils, and add the remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat all the way down to the lowest possible setting. Partially cover, and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, or until the flavors are well blended.
4. Grind in a generous amount of black pepper (about 10 or more turns), and stir to blend. Serve hot, with a lime wedge on the side.
This recipe serves 8.