In love with lentils

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

On our recent spiritual cruise aboard the Norwegian Jewel, I discovered an amazingly tasty and healthy food, dal.

Dal, a basic stew made with lentils, is common in the diet of India and other Asian countries. It was so rich and delectable that I ate it every day at least once. The cruise ship chefs prepared a tasty new version daily for the Asian food buffet island.

Dal is usually vegetarian. All the dals were aromatic preparations of lentils with spices like turmeric, cumin, mustard seeds and various vegetables.

While dal was a new and healthy taste thrill for me, it is a popular and widely eaten food, though not necessarily in the United States and certainly not something you’d find in your local Texas barbecue or steakhouse.

In fact, when I mentioned to some of my Asian and Indian physician colleagues about my latest culinary discovery, they looked at me with looks about as astonished as a goat looking at a new gate.

They not only knew about and made dal from childhood but had numerous varieties of it.

Duh, where had I bean all my life?

One supplied me with a website, which lists hundreds of dal recipes — vahrehvah.com/search/dal.

Not sure you want to take on cooking your dal?

Well an easy alternative is to find a good Indian restaurant near you. There really aren’t any on Galveston Island, though there are a few in the northern county and plenty in Houston.

I admit I haven’t made my first batch of dal yet, though I succeeded last week in making a really delicious lentil soup by softening some chopped carrots, celery, onion, and garlic in canola oil and olive oil, then stirring in vegetable stock and lentils.

It has been a great lunch and dinner side all week. The easy recipe came from a new cookbook I just got called “Mindful Eating,” by Miraval, published by Hay House. Get a copy for a lot of great-tasting and healthy recipes.

Lentil soup isn’t dal, but it is really a great alternative. I long ago discovered that the Greek restaurants in Galveston, like the Olympia Pier, Olympia Grill and Mediterranean Chef, have incredibly delicious lentil soup.

And I am talking really delicious and healthy. I like to squeeze a little lemon juice into mine to bring out the flavors even more.

Patronize our local businesses and enjoy your lentils easily, cheaply, with zero preparation time of your own.

Lentils are high in protein and fiber, are a low-carb, low-glycemic food that is great for those with cholesterol problems, diabetes and heart disease. They are rich in minerals, like iron, magnesium, manganese and copper; vitamins, especially folic acid; and are very low in fat but have some healthy omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids.

One of my goals this year is adding a new recipe to my culinary repertoire every couple of weeks. This adds ongoing variety and new delights to my cooking hobby and meal plans.

As you can tell, lentils are already on the hit list. Try something with them this week and enjoy the great flavors as well as their health benefits.

Dr. Victor S. Sierpina is the WD and Laura Nell Nicholson Family Professor of Integrative Medicine and Professor of Family Medicine at UTMB.

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