As frustrating as dealing with my landlord can be (“I’ll maybe fix the peeling ceiling after the holidays,” oh and there might be mice as evidenced by the large trap placed right by a hole in the back stairway, and one running through the bedroom, that trap seems super helpful), one of the things I love about where I live is the neighborhood. And specifically, the middle eastern bakery/grocery that’s a ten minute walk up the street. They do amazing, cheap hand pies that are great for lunch or breakfast, wonderful sides (dolma! baba ghanoush! pita!), they have a small fuckton of spices, and they have a lot of reasonably priced staples. Like say, the black lentils that are central to this recipe.

This is a simple, cheap, low energy, but amazingly filling recipe. I’ve been perfecting it over the last few months to my and boything’s taste, and the recipe as I have it currently is beyond perfect. My spices are a bit more haphazard than the ingredients list below suggests in terms of amounts, but I promise you you can adjust this to your own taste, easy. Throw this on the stove while a Destiny 2 or Overwatch session is going on, and voila.

Punjabi-Style Black Lentils
Makes enough for two and then a little meals for two

Ingredients

  • 2 T ghee (regular butter or oil also acceptable)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • .5 T ground cumin (original says seeds, I went with what I have on hand for simplicity)
  • 1 in piece of ginger, grated (original says finely chopped, I go with the ginger grating trick mentioned earlier in the blog these days
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 T ground coriander
  • 1 t ground tumeric
  • 1 T garam masala (usually more)
  • pinch ground chile powder
  • 1 can diced fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 t sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 c dried black lentils
  • 3.5 c water (reduced from original recipe bc now I just use a whole can of diced fire roasted tomatoes, which is an extra cup up from the original recommended amount
  • 4 t salted butter
  • 2 T heavy cream (can be omitted if people don’t like it)

Over medium heat, melt your ghee. Once warm, add the onion and cumin, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is lightly browned in places (pic 1). Add in the ginger and garlic, cook 1 minute more until fragrant, and then add the remaining spices (pic 2) and can of tomatoes (pic 3), and cook 3 more minutes, scraping up any bits that may be stuck to the pot. Add the salt, water, and then the lentils. Bring to a simmer, and then reduce the heat to low, and cover the pot. Cook 35 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender (see pic 5). If you want a looser dal, add more water. Adjust the spices and seasoning to taste.

To finish, ladle the dal into the bowl, add 1 t butter and .5 T heavy cream, and stir in to melt (see pic 6).

Looking for a quick, simple meal? The above took a half hour to put together, and, other than the fire roasted tomatoes, I had almost all of it in my pantry already. The remaining ingredients you would need to pick up are mostly cheap. (I don’t know where OP shops that fire roasted tomatoes are so cheap, but the only ones I’ve found out here are an organic brand, and they run about $2.50 a can out here.)

Plus, I used a neat trick I just learned about. Have leftover tomato paste from something else? Take it out of the can, either freeze it in an ice cube tray or in a glass jar (I went with the latter), and when you need to use it again, just take it out of the freezer, let it warm up a bit, and boom, you’re good to go. I froze what remained of my last jar of tomato paste a while ago, so I just let the jar warm up for this, scooped out what I needed, and then tossed the rest back in the freezer. Works like a charm.

Smoky Tomato Soup
Lasts 3.5 meals as a main

Ingredients

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • .5 T smoked paprika
  • .5 t cumin
  • 2 15 oz cans fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 c vegetable stock
  • .5 t dark brown sugar
  • pepper to taste (if you can get freshly ground pepper, great, but if not, your standard pepper works just fine)

Heat your olive oil in a pot over medium heat, and add your garlic and onion, cooking about five minutes until the onions are soft and translucent. Then, add your paprika, cumin, and tomato paste, and stir together and cook for about two minutes, to let the tomato paste caramelize a bit.

Then, add your remaining ingredients (fire roasted tomatoes, vegetable stock, dark brown sugar, pepper), stir to combine, and simmer for ten minutes to heat through. 

And then, no more than fifteen to twenty minutes after you started, you have your soup ready to go! Have some bread on the side to dip in it, or maybe a grilled cheese sandwich too.