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Follow the Recipe, Mom

Years ago, after I had shared the original version of this Steve Poses Commissary Cookbook recipe with my mother, she called me, and we had the following conversation:

“I don’t know why you said this is so pretty,” she said.

“Did you use red lentils and red onions?”

“No, I used brown lentils and regular onions, because that’s what I had in the house.”

“Well, that might explain it.”

“ I don’t know what you were raving about anyway. It’s good, but not that special.”

“Did you use the spice mix or just regular old curry powder?”

“Oh please, I’m not going to futz around with all those spices. Yes, I used regular curry powder. And anyway, I ran out of cinnamon when I made rugelach the other day.”

Oh Mom. Yes, I know this recipe calls for many spices (which is why I always double the spice mix and save half for the next time). But I do think it’s totally worth it. It’s also a fun thing to do with kids. Depending on their ages, they can gather, measure, pour – and then organize your spices when you’re all done. Trust me – you’re going to want to make this dish again and again – those spices won’t go to waste!

Don’t listen to my mother – this really is a great recipe, and it keeps for a long time in the refrigerator, too. I’ve made a couple of very minor, healthy adaptations to the original.

Curried Lentil Salad


1 pound red or brown lentils (see note)

Spice mix ingredients

  •             1 tsp ground black pepper
  •             1 tsp salt
  •             1 tsp ground cumin
  •             1 tsp dry mustard
  •             ½ tsp turmeric
  •             ½ tsp mace
  •             ¼ tsp ground cloves
  •             ½ tsp ground coriander
  •             ½ tsp ground cardamom
  •             ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  •             ¼ tsp nutmeg
  •             ¼ tsp cinnamon

1 large red or yellow onion, finely chopped

1/3 cup drained capers

1 cup currants (or raisins, in a pinch)

¾ cup canola oil

¼ cup red wine vinegar

2 Tbl maple syrup or honey


  1. Rinse the lentils, and cook them in boiling water according to package directions. Drain, and place in a large bowl.
  2. In the meantime, combine the ingredients for the spice mixture in a medium-size bowl .
  3. Whisk the oil, vinegar, and syrup into the bowl with the spices.
  4. Pour over the lentils, and stir.
  5. Add the onions, capers, and currants. Stir again.
  6. Refrigerate, ideally for several hours or overnight.

Note: red lentils are prettier and cook more quickly, but brown (or green) lentils are easier to find and cost less.