Indian inspiration is the name of the game tonight. In order to get my head in the right space, I popped open a Denogginizer India Pale Ale and put on some bhangra music. That definitely did the trick. I'll explain the salad and the tomatoes in a moment, but for now let's talk about dal. Dal (also spelled dahl, daal or dhal) refers to a preparation of pulses (dried lentils, peas or beans) which have been stripped of their outer hulls and split, or also to the thick stew prepared from these. Dal is a mainstay of Indian, Nepali, Pakistani, Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi cuisine as it is a great source of protein for a balanced diet containing little or no meat. Most dal recipes are simple to prepare. The standard preparation of dal begins with boiling a variety of dal (or a mix) in water with some turmeric and salt, and then adding a tarka towards the end of the cooking process. Tarka is a technique whereby whole spices (and sometimes other ingredients such as ginger or sugar) are briefly fried in oil or ghee.
In this case I used yellow dal, simmered in salted water with a couple dashes of curry powder (I was out of turmeric). My tarka consisted of cumin and fennel seed, ginger and garlic.
Rinse 1 cup of dal until the water runs clear, then place in a large saucepan. Add 3 cups of water, 1 tbsp salt and 2 tsp curry and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until lentils are tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Keep warm over low heat. I wanted a very thick end-product, so I cooked almost all of the water off, but you can keep the heat very low or add more water if you want a more stew-like consistency.