This was a great dinner and totally worth the time it takes to caramelize the onions. The sweetness of the onions really brings this dinner from simple super to great dinner. If you add a garden salad on the side you have a complete meal!
The flavors were not overpowering but just a hint above subtle. If you're new to Indian flavors, this would be a great recipe to start with. If you enjoy Indian cuisine, feel free to up the spices to meet your palate desires, or just know it's a little on the muted side (something I quite like). I used half red and half green/brown lentils when I made this the first time and it was still great, but having made it more times, I prefer all red lentils. If you choose to go with green/brown lentils, just know the simmering time will be longer.
When you look at the directions, don't shy away from all the steps -- it may look like a lot, but it's really not. You essentially caramelize the onions, and while you're waiting for those to brown you cook the lentils and measure out the spices. It's really quite simple and will take about 45 minutes from start to finish.
If you're looking for an even simpler Indian dish with no caramelized onions or spinach, try this Red Lentil Dal.
Spiced Red Lentils with Caramelized Onions
2 large onions, halved and cut into thin half moons
1 1/2 cup dry red lentils, rinsed well and drained
3 bay leaves
1/2 tsp dry ginger powder
3/4 tsp ground turmeric
1 1/2 tsp coriander powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 TBLS minced garlic
10 oz frozen box chopped spinach, thawed OR 15 oz fresh, chopped
4 cups cooked brown rice
salt and pepper to taste
-- Saute onions (with oil or broth) in a large skillet until caramelized (about 30 minutes) -- stir occasionally
-- Meanwhile, heat lentils with 4 1/2 cups water and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes until lentils are fully cooked and starting to fall apart. Take off heat when done, but do not drain!
-- When onions are done, take half out and set aside in a small bowl. Add all the spices to the remaining onions in the skillet and heat for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
-- Add chopped spinach to skillet and heat til wilted if using fresh , 3-4 minutes. Stir/fold if needed.
-- Once spinach is wilted, add onion/spinach mixture to the lentil and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste if desired.
-- Serve over rice and top with remaining caramelized onions.