For a taste of DC, I like to bring out of town guests for crabcakes at Eastern Market, salty oat cookies and chai tea at Teasim, oysters at Union Market, or Ethiopian. Ethiopian food is often the hardest sell to people who have never tried it. The clincher is the spongy bread used in place of utensils. You either love injera or you hate it. I happen to love it. But even more, I love the spicy red lentils that are often the primary attraction on the vegetarian plate.
I used to say that cooking Ethiopian food is too hard and that it should be reserved for someone who has to walk more than two blocks to get it. Well that time has come. Korean, Thai, and Indian are all in abundance within a few mile radius of my house in the burbs, but Ethiopian is a no longer walking distance for me. Not to mention that eating out has decreased dramatically since the arrival of you know who. As a result Ethiopian has gone from a weekly staple to a quarterly treat. Sigh.
I've had this recipe tagged for quite some time. I even had most of the ingredients on hand, ready for making. It took me too long to get to it, mostly related to an unexplained mental block. For some reason, I thought the dish would take a lot longer or would involve too many fussy steps. As you see below, it took two steps from start to finish.
Did I mention this recipe is entirely vegan? Even if you could give a kale about vegans, you probably care about your health. Pssst...vegan means there's no butter in this dish, making it a super healthy delight. Not to mention that Dr. Oz named lentils one of the best anti-aging superfoods of 2011. So maybe you don't care about vegans, or health, but you care about wrinkles? Wait, I'm getting off track here. The primary reason why you want to eat this dish is because it's delicious.
Notes from the arugula files:
- If I make this again, I will leave out the cardamom. Besides being crazy delicious, this dish occasional tasted of flower notes. I did not like that. Other recipes for misor wat do not include cardamom so I don't think it a must.
- Be prepared to use a lot more berbere spice than called for in the recipe. I used about 4 ounces total (about six to eight tbs).
- Add a poached egg, or rice and make it a meal. (Of course, adding an egg means it's not vegan).
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 medium red onions, finely chopped (2 cups)
- 10 garlic cloves, minced
- One 3-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
- 3 tablespoons berbere, plus more for sprinkling
- 2 teaspoons nigella seeds, finely ground
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 3 cups red lentils (1 1/4 pounds)
1. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the olive oil. Add the onions and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until they are softened and just starting to brown, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, berbere, nigella seeds, cardamom and a generous pinch each of salt and black pepper and cook until fragrant and deeply colored, about 10 minutes.
2. Add the red lentils with 8 cups of water to the casserole and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the lentils have cooked down and thickened, 25 minutes. Season the lentils with salt and pepper. Ladle the lentils into bowls, sprinkle with berbere and serve.