fueled by ramen dal.

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This dal recipe, from Ismail Merchantâ??s Passionate Meals (Hyperion, $14.95), has never let me down â?? it's extremely cheap, extremely simple and low-fat to boot. Passionate Meals is a great book, not just for the recipes but also for Ismail Merchantâ??s filmmaking anecdotes. Sadly, he died in 2005, but he was the Merchant in Merchant Ivory Productions, the indie film company known for genteel literary adaptations. One of the many quirks of their company was that Merchant always did the catering on his sets to keep costs down.

Masoor dal recipe â?? No. 2 from the food-stamp challenge â?? after the jump.

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2 cups red lentils, rinsed

6 cups water

1 tablespoon peeled and chopped ginger root

a scant quarter-teaspoon of turmeric

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground red pepper

1 tomato, quartered

optional:

2.5 tablespoons canola oil

1 small onion, sliced thin

2 cloves garlic, minced

Combine the lentils, ginger, turmeric and water in a soup pot, bring to a boil, then let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.

Add the salt, red pepper and tomato. Simmer for another 10 minutes and transfer to serving dish.

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet and sauté the onion and garlic together until the onions are golden and soft. Pour onions, garlic and oil on the center of the dal just before serving. (This fried garnish is called a tarka in Indian cooking. If you prefer a low-fat â?? indeed, a no-fat dish, omit this step.)

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