fresh turmeric red lentil dal bowl

i took a brief hiatus from chef work & blogging over the holidays and escaped to red rocks canyon with david for 10 days. we flew to las vegas with a giant bouldering crash pad and our climbing shoes, rented a car and spent our daylight hours bouldering and hiking through gorgeous canyons. red rocks is a climbing destination david has wanted to visit for quite some time, and neither of us had hit up vegas before. 

when i tell people we went to vegas for 10 days, their reaction is initially one of disgust. fair enough... i can't imagine spending 10 days in vegas the way most people do vegas - eating out and drinking and spending all their monies at casinos. but 10 days in red rocks was fantastic! the canyons are only a 30 or 40 minute drive from 'the strip' and host numerous incredible climbing areas. there were days of climbing in sunshine and t-shirts and other days when we were tucked away in a shady canyon, and i froze my butt off in 30-degree weather while david projected on some ridiculously difficult boulder problem. but the scenery was always incredible, even the views of far away vegas were a delight! 

we stayed at an airbnb in west las vegas, with a wonderfully helpful host who allowed me the use of her kitchen. we made eggs and coffee in the mornings, and packed homemade soups and snacks for picnics in the canyons. i even made a fair number of dinners at the house. nothing fancy, just hearty warming meals. we did however go out for a few fantastic meals. hands down, our favorite was all-you-can-eat sushi at goyemon sushi house. we had a blast sitting at the sushi bar, ordering excessive amounts of nigiri straight from the sushi chefs. we spent maybe 4 hours or so on the strip, looking into the casinos and bars. and for new years we celebrate with an inspiring cirque du soleil show. we then promptly fell asleep around 11pm and got up early the next day to get back out to the boulders. so many boulders to climb, 10 days was not enough for david. he will probably be returning back to red rocks within the next year. i would tag along again just for all-you-can-eat sushi. 

all in all it was a very diverse and fantastic vacation. getting back into the groove of work and life at home has been a bit of a struggle this past week as it always is after a long time off. although, i truly missed my chef knives, yoga mat and bicycle. being reunited with them this week has been a joy. i certainly took many photos while in red rocks, but none of food. so a new blog post is well overdue! this hearty bowl of goodness was inspired by the fresh turmeric root that had been sitting in my fruit basket since before we left for vegas. i've honestly never used fresh turmeric before. i've ordered it before at juice bars, blended with citrus and carrot, but had never cooked with it. i didn't want to add too many competing flavors in this lentil dish, as i was curious about the turmeric. the end result was fantastic. this dahl is wonderful as a stand alone dish over your favorite steamed grain, or choose from some of the various optional topping offered below. or pile on all the toppings... the combination was delicious! 

fresh turmeric red lentil dal ~ serves 4 or more

1 cup red lentils
1 yellow onion
2 inches fresh turmeric 
2 inches fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch chili flakes
2 tablespoons coconut oil
3 cups vegetable stock 
1 large sweet potato, unpeeled 
1/2 lemon, juiced

note: the fresh flavor is quite unique from dried turmeric powder, so i can't recommend substituting it. go find fresh turmeric at your local health food store or asian grocer (typically much cheaper at asian groceries!) 

wash and drain the lentils in a fine mesh colander. brush off any dirt from sweet potatoes and cut into small cubes, about the size of a chickpea, and set aside. peel and grate fresh turmeric and ginger with a microplane zester and set aside. finely chop onion and add to a sauce pan with coconut oil over medium heat. sauté for 5 minutes. add grated ginger and turmeric to pan and sauté for an additional minute. add remaining ingredients and simmer over low heat until the liquid is mostly absorbed and the sweet potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. serve over your favorite steamed grain (i used res quinoa) and top with cilantro or with any of these delightful options...

quick pickled carrots ~ to top 4 portions of lentils
1 cup julienne sliced carrots
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup rice or white wine vinegar

use a julienne peeler to thinly slice washed carrots. rub carrot strips with salt and let sit in colander to drain for 20 minutes. squeeze carrots to drain off any excess liquid then submerge in vinegar for at least 20 minutes, or overnight. you can add flavors like crushed garlic and ginger to the vinegar for an extra zing. 

sautéed greens ~ to serve with 4 portions of lentils
4-6 cups loosely packed bitter greens
1-2 teaspoons coconut oil
salt & pepper

wash and dry greens (i used red kale, but you could use chard or spinach or your favorite green). tear or chop greens into 1-inch strips. heat coconut oil over medium heat and toss greens to coat in oil. cover pan and let wilt. i like my greens to be vibrant in color and retain a bit of their shape, rather than cooking them all the way down to where they darken and dull in color. 

cilantro-lime coconut cream ~ to top 4 portions of lentils
1 cup light coconut milk or full fat coconut cream 
1/2 - 3/4 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
juice of 1 lime

combine ingredients in blender. if you are using a solidified coconut cream, you may need to add a few tablespoons of water to loosen the cream. this dressing should be slightly runny and pourable. adjust consistency to taste.