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Lentils are a high-protein, high-fiber member of the legume family. Like a mini version of a bean, lentils grow in pods and come in red, brown, black, and green varieties. They are also a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber and prevent blood sugar levels from rising rapidly after a meal. In addition, lentils provide good to excellent amounts of seven important minerals, our B vitamins and protein — all with virtually no fat. This tiny nutritional giant fills you up, not out!

Masoor Dal (Spiced Red Lentils)

2 Tbsp. canola oil

1 c. finely chopped onion

2 1/2 c. (10 oz., about 1 medium) finely diced sweet potato

1 Tbsp. minced ginger

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 Thai or bird's-eye red chili

1 c red lentils

2 tsp. ground coriander

2 tsp. ground cumin

2 tsp. turmeric

1 tsp. ground ginger

1 c. canned chopped tomatoes

4 c. water

Salt to taste

3 Tbsp. chopped cilantro

Pieces of coconut flesh from a fresh coconut (optional)

In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, heat oil and sauté onion until softened.

Add sweet potato and sauté for about 5 minutes.

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Add minced ginger and garlic; stir and reduce heat to low.

Finely dice chili, keeping seeds if you wish to add more heat.

Add chili, lentils, coriander, cumin, turmeric and ground ginger to pan. Stir until lentils are well coated with oil.

Add tomatoes and 4 cups water.

Raise heat to bring to a boil, then reduce heat until mixture is at a fast simmer. Cook uncovered until lentils and potatoes are soft, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes.

Season to taste with salt, and continue to simmer until mixture has thickened, about 10 minutes.

Whisk dal to amalgamate lentils and sweet potatoes. If dal is too soupy, increase heat and cook for a little longer.

To serve, place dal in a serving bowl and sprinkle with chopped cilantro. If desired, shave thin strips of fresh coconut on top. Serve hot.

Pair this East Indian dish with an East Indian-style pale ale -- Figueroa Mountain’s Hoppy Poppy IPA. Inspired by the poppies growing on Figueroa Mountain, this West Coast IPA features Cascade, Columbus and Centennial hops along with a sprinkling of poppy seeds. Bursting with a floral bouquet and notes of citrus and pine, Hoppy Poppy is a balanced IPA for any beer lover. Delivering an ABV of 6.5%, and 65 IBUs, this beer incorporates Cascade, Columbus and Centennial hops, with Pale Two Row, Crystal, Wheat and Cara malts.

Inspired by the poppies growing on Figueroa Mountain in the spring, Hoppy Poppy commemorates the California poppy, which was designated as the state flower in 1903. Bursting with bright aromas of grapefruit, orange oil, lemon zest and pine needles abound, the flavor is mellow and smooth with a very moderate lingering bitterness.

Enjoy!

John David Finley is a freelance writer and author of the cookbook "Sacred Meals from our Family Table," which features Santa Barbara County wines. He can be reached at sacredmeals@comcast.net.

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