Went to my Hadassah chapter's Member Appreciation dinner last night (Hadassah is a volunteer Jewish women's organization that raises funds for hospitals, education and medical aid in the US and Israel as well as other countries). I call it my chapter because I'm one of the co-presidents. But as the only co-president in attendance that did not have a nasty cold and cough last night, I had the honor of giving the entire presidents' speech. Thus, I was forced to spend maybe 2 whole hours writing the speech (good lines aren't just waiting for me on someone's website to simply lift, ya know). No, seriously, it might have been 3 hours, counting major rewrites and minor tweaking.
I needed some ideas to get me started, but most dinner speeches I found online did not sound anything like me. "We are fighting the war against cancer. But as in real war, not all soldiers come home ... okay, let's EAT!" Plus the other co-prez wanted me to say something about therapeutic music and how it relates to Hadassah in order to segue into the evening's entertainment of Indian (India Indian, not native American) songs and music. To further complicate things, the actual consumption of dinner was not going to start until after all the speeches, making for some starving and cranky Hadassah ladies. Oy!
While trying to compose The. Best. Speech. Ever!, I discovered (Tip Alert!) that personal anecdotes work much better than
The dinner itself is always a dairy-fish-parve potluck affair. And boy, can Hadassah women cook! Twenty-four hours later, I'm still stuffed. My contribution to dinner, in honor of the entertainers, was a lentil dal. Dal is an Indian dish made from lentils, dried beans or split peas, usually served with rice or naan (a type of flatbread). There are many different recipes for dal. I found this version while doing (*cough*) research (*cough*). It's from Steamy Kitchen, who got the actual recipe from Nirvana, an Indian restaurant in Beverly Hills (Swimming pools! Movie stars! Lentils!).
This dal recipe is not fast. But it is very easy. Boil lentils, drain, throw in almost everything else, then simmer for an hour.
I made a couple of small changes to the original, including replacing the heavy cream with evaporated milk and halving the amount of cayenne pepper. It was still too spicy for some of the attendees until I explained that it's supposed to be eaten with the basmati rice I was nice enough to bring along and set up right next to the dal. Even if you are the type who thinks ketchup is spicy, use the cayenne and just make sure that rice is on your fork under the lentils.
adapted from Steamy Kitchen
Serves 4, 6 as a side
1 cup dry brown lentils
8 ozs. canned crushed tomato
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 Tbl. minced garlic (bottled ok)
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 cup water
4 Tbl. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 cup evaporated milk (regular or low-fat)
rice (basmati or your favorite plain type), enough for your family
2 Tbl. chopped fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish
In a 4 qt. sauce pan, add lentils and fill with water to cover said lentils by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes or until lentils are tender.
Drain water, then return lentils to pot. Add crushed tomatoes, ginger, garlic, cayenne pepper, water, butter, salt and pepper.
Stir it all around, then bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
Lower heat and simmer uncovered for 1 hour until dal is thick. Make sure to check the dal occasionally to make sure it doesn't get too dry and start to burn (if it looks too dry, add around a quarter cup of water at a time).
Stir in evaporated milk. Serve over rice and garnish with cilantro. Sorry, I didn't bring a camera with me to the dinner, so there's no photo of the plated lentils over rice garnished with cilantro.
So here's a photo of my dog instead.