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Dahl Fit For a Saint

Dahl Fit For a Saint

Wouldn’t you know, the very first time I made it, an honest-to-goodness Indian saint had come to visit. There are rules regarding saints, and at mealtime, the first and foremost is that no one can try the dahl before she does. I must have done something right, because she tasted, smiled, and kissed me gently on the forehead. I treasure that memory, and also appreciate the experience of making that dahl because it taught me that spices—which have phenomenal healing properties—can be the heart of a dish, rather than an add-on to enhance flavor. Here, the blending of spices is what really gives this dish its power, both nutritionally and on the palate.

2 tablespoons organic ghee or extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons black or brown mustard seeds
1 onion, diced small
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons ground cumin
Sea salt
2 cups chopped tomatoes, or 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained and juices reserved
8 cups Magic Mineral Broth or store-bought vegetable broth
2 cups dried red lentils, rinsed well
1 cinnamon stick
3 cups loosely packed baby spinach
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 teaspoon Grade B maple syrup
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro or mint, for garnish

Heat the ghee in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and mustard seeds and sauté until they begin to pop. Immediately add the onion, ginger, turmeric, ground cumin, and a pinch of salt and sauté for about 3 minutes. Add the drained tomatoes and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and sauté for 2 minutes. Pour in 1/2 cup of the broth and the reserved juice from the tomatoes to deglaze the pot, stirring to loosen any bits stuck to the pot.

Cook until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the lentils and stir well, then add the remaining 7 1/2 cups broth and the cinnamon stick. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in another 1/4 teaspoon of salt and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and stir in the spinach, lime juice, and maple syrup. Serve garnished with cilantro.


Rebecca Katz invented the term “Culinary Translator” to describe what I do, which is essentially translating nutritional science to the plate, seasoned by wisdom and the alchemy of flavor. Ater a stressed-out career in the business world, Rebecca was led to seek out a more nourishing life. She found the answer in a signora’s kitchen in Florence, and went on to formal culinary training at the Natural Gourmet Institute. Since then, she has become Executive Chef for the Food As Medicine professional nutrition training program, obtaining a Masters of Science degree in Health and Nutrition Education from Hawthorn University, and publishing her first science-based cookbook, Healing Kitchens.

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