A Warming Welcome Home

March 1, 2011

Aaaannnnd we are back.  From Hawaii.  Kauai to be exact.  I wish I could say it’s good to be back but I would kind of be lying.  Usually I love landing in Seattle.  There are few cities I have flown into that look as beautiful as mine does from the air.  And it’s home.  No matter how wonderful a vacation, it’s always nice to be home – right?  What if home has a dusting of snow and it is 50 degrees colder than the place you left?  Not so much.

But we are settling back into regular life and I am happy to get back into the kitchen.  My kitchen.  For me, the first meal back after a trip is always something really clean and healthy.  Whatever your intentions are, it is hard to eat healthy on the road.  This is our third time to Kauai and we found some delightful places to eat with plenty of options for me.  I didn’t come back feeling as yuck as I usually do.  Still, something filling, clean, super-flavorful, and warming is what I wanted for the first meal back.  I have made many versions of red lentil stews – there are several on this site.  I like them pretty much any way with any vegetables.  This version was excellent.

This is a classic well-written recipe from Ivy Manning.  Her book The Farm to Table Cookbook is a treasure trove of Northwest inspired dishes, although you don’t have to live in this part of the country to enjoy them.  She arranged this book by season and when I am at a loss as to what to cook, I always find inspiration in what she offers, even in winter.  I love when a list of ingredients is long but the instructions are short – lots of flavor with little effort.  I also love the flow here.  I was able to chop a bit, sauté a bit, without ever feeling like I was missing a beat.  I am excited to eat the leftovers and I never like leftovers.

One Year Ago: Chocolate Spice Bread, Papparadelle with Lemon, (and what do you know?) Red Lentil Dal
Two Years Ago: Double Baked Chocolate Cake, Spanikopita, Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Dal with Winter Vegetables
Adapted from The Farm to Table Cookbook
4-6 servings

This makes a very soupy dal.  If you like yours a little thicker – more stew like – add 5 cups of water instead.  Manning instructs you to rinse the lentils before cooking but I never take that step.  I served this over basmati rice.

1½ cups red lentils
6 cups water
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. tumeric
1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced into ¼-inch thick rounds
1 cup (about ½ a small head) roughly chopped cabbage
2 medium Yukon gold potaotes, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. brown mustard seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
2 tbsp. peeled, minced ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup cilantro, finely chopped

In a soup pot, bring the lentils, water, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, salt and tumeric to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, until the lentils have turned a muted amber color and the mixture has become a thick porridge consistency, about 20 minutes.  Stir occasionally.

Add the cauliflower, carrots, cabbage, and potatoes and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, place a sauté pan over high heat; add the oil and mustard seeds.  Cover and cook until the seeds pop, about 1 minute.  Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the cumin seeds, ginger, garlic, onion, and chile.  Sauté until the onion begins to brown, about 6 minutes.  Stir the mixture into the soup pot, season with salt and pepper, serving soup bowls, and garnish with the cilantro.


  1. Aww, I’m honored, Dana! It’s my hubby’s favorite too!

    Comment by Ivy Manning — March 1, 2011 @ 5:59 pm

  2. Well, I have to say that I am positively thrilled that you are back because I missed you every second that you were gone! Really, I needed some good vegetarian Dana posts in my life to keep me going. But I’m so glad to hear you had fun in Hawaii and that you ate some delicious food!

    And I know you’re just trying to make up for leaving me and get back on my good side with this red lentil stew. I kind of have a thing for red lentils at the moment. Looks and sounds so good.

    Comment by Joanne — March 1, 2011 @ 9:27 pm

  3. Red lentils, cauliflower, and jalapeno is all I need to know. I already put red lentils among my favorite comfort food ingredients, and I seem to cook lentils often as a first meal at home after a trip. Love this!

    Comment by lisaiscooking — March 2, 2011 @ 12:17 am

  4. aah, i know what you mean about not being able to eat healthily on holiday!! by the time i get home from a trip, i just LONG for veggies, and this would definitely fill the gap, what a delicious sounding, soul-filling meal :)

    Comment by polkadotcupcake — March 2, 2011 @ 7:49 am

  5. You are back. Finally.
    I read plenty of other food blogs but I really missed yours.

    And yes, coming home always requires clean food. Same with periods of stress in which I eat as if I am on the road – lots of junk.
    The list of ingredients is long indeed, but full of flavors for the last days of winter! Thanks!

    Comment by Annika — March 2, 2011 @ 10:54 am

  6. We’re doing the same this week – eating good, clean, healthy vegetarian food to “detox” from our skiing holiday last week. The food was actually excellent, and generally healthy (we had a trained chef cooking for us in our catered chalet) but there was so much meat and rich sauces etc. I need a break!

    ps I love dal! I like how substantial this one seems with potatoes and cabbage.

    Comment by Hilary — March 2, 2011 @ 12:30 pm

  7. Welcome back! Love this comforting dish!

    Comment by Maria — March 2, 2011 @ 4:35 pm

  8. Welcome back…. returning from Hawaii is always tricky, it’s such a paradise!

    but you picked a perfect recipe to celebrate being in your own kitchen, which is always a wonderful feeling!

    Comment by SallyBR — March 2, 2011 @ 5:30 pm

  9. I love this recipe. Farm to Table is one of my favorite cookbooks too :)

    Comment by Kathy — March 2, 2011 @ 11:39 pm

  10. Hi Dana,

    I’m relatively new to your blog, and enjoying perusing your recipes and lovely photos. This dal looks like a perfect welcome-home meal, supremely nourishing. And Hawaii – I’m green with envy! :)

    Comment by Nancy — March 3, 2011 @ 4:07 pm

  11. I eat meals like this often and I just love a good curried lentil. I wish so much to go to Hawaii, so call me envious. Especially since this winter has seemed extra rough with the snow and the crazy hail and thunder.

    Comment by kickpleat — March 4, 2011 @ 8:28 pm

  12. This sounds like exactly the kind of dish I love!

    Comment by Ashley — April 4, 2011 @ 1:57 pm

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