Springtime Rejuvenating Red Dal Recipe
Melting snow, budding trees, a loamy aroma in the air, earlier sunrises, and later sunsets. These are the signs of spring, the season when the Earth awakens from her hibernation and puts on display all the new life she’s been keeping safe underground during the dark, harsh winter.
In Ayurveda, the arrival of spring is one of the recommended times of year for a seasonal cleanse—a short period in which we simplify and reduce the inputs to our body and mind in order to create the conditions for an easeful transition between the dry, cold, mobile qualities of winter (vata season) and the damp, warm, dense qualities of spring (kapha season).
Transitioning from Winter to Spring
Compared to the onset of autumn, another important time for cleansing, the dramatic shift in doshas during the spring transition can be more challenging for our bodies to handle, which is partly why so many of us struggle with seasonal irritants just when we’re excited to get outside and play.
Here’s why: If we were nourishing ourselves with foods and activities to balance vata dosha during winter—think holiday treats and more Netflix marathons than walks outside—all of those heavy kapha qualities will have gradually built up in our systems.
If we don’t mindfully taper off from those routines in the juncture between winter and spring, we’ll be overloaded with kapha, and may get stuck in a cycle of imbalance for the rest of the season, if not the whole year.
In other words, we can support a state of sattva, unburdened by the doshas of mind or body.
Especially after simplifying your diet and routines for a few days with a cleanse, you might actually be hungry for a little stimulation, eager to trade your monodiet of kitchari for a hearty, toothsome meal.
In Ayurveda, periods when we reduce our inputs (for an at-home cleanse, a more intense panchakarma, or even bouts of stress, loss, or major change) are followed by a protocol of rasayana, or rejuvenation therapy.
Rasayana will look different for everyone, but it generally includes nutrient-rich foods that help to rebuild the tissues and restore ojas, our vital essence of vigor and immunity. Dates, almond or animal milk, nuts, ghee, abhyanga, and sleep are common rasayanas.
They are things that a hungry body and mind will find delicious and satisfying. Indeed, the word “rasayana” has “rasa” built right in, which suggests it’s all about imbibing the juicy, tasty parts of life. It also points us to the rasa dhatu, or liquid tissue that circulates all through our bodies, the health of which is directly affected by the quality of our digestion.
The foods you choose for rejuvenation after cleansing, however, can make or break all of the good work you did to prepare yourself for the new season. In the same way that we want to gradually ease into a new set of elements and qualities, we need to ease back into a daily routine after cleansing to ensure that sattvic feeling sticks around.
Think about what happened to Holocaust survivors when well-intentioned troops attempted to feed the starving prisoners candy and chocolate. Their systems were so weak, some died from the overflow of unfamiliar nutrients.1
Now, this is an extreme example, but it might remind you to stay on the middle path for your rasayana. Try to avoid extremes, even if tempted to reach for a bar of chocolate and cup of coffee. Your vata won’t like the erratic movement, and your kapha won’t be happy either.
Remember, we’re moving into kapha season, so we don’t want to turn to foods that are high in the heavy, oily, dense qualities already in the atmosphere. Instead, opt for foods that are tasty and nutritious, but soft, well-cooked, and easy to digest.
The Rejuvenating Power of Dal
For a perfectly rejuvenating and delicious springtime meal, you will love this creamy, warming rasayana-worthy red dal. It is designed to keep kapha in check and all of your taste buds happy and balanced.
Full of vibrant, seasonal produce and herbal allies, this dish is the upbeat but mellow instrumental jazz playlist from your favorite cafe—more exciting than the elevator music of kitchari, but not as stimulating as a late-night jam session in an underground club, fueled by pizza and cocktails.
It cooks super-fast, is slightly heating, and is an excellent source of iron to support liver health—all of which makes it a perfect choice for the spring season.
Playing an important supporting role is humble celery, a food that is ideal for detoxing of any kind and helps to scrape the channels of any residual ama, or undigested food from your cleanse, all the while boosting agni and supporting strong digestion.
While kapha-balancing foods in Ayurveda will be predominant in the bitter, astringent, and pungent tastes, this rasayana dal makes sure to incorporate all six tastes so you’re not left feeling unsatisfied post-cleanse. Here’s where you can find each taste within the recipe:
- Sweet: Dal, raisins, coconut, oil
- Sour: Vinegar, pickled radishes
- Salty: Mineral salt, celery
- Pungent/Spicy: Hingvastak, cumin, black pepper, daikon, ginger, celery
- Bitter: Dandelion greens, celery, cilantro
- Astringent: Dandelion greens, dal, cilantro
As you enjoy this mindful meal, perhaps looking out over a landscape of green-tipped trees and feeling a gentle spring breeze blowing through the window, notice which tastes stand out to you most and which, if any, you’re still craving.
Allow the sattvic intelligence of your body to guide you towards the things that will feed those cravings most directly—whether it’s a walk in the abundance of nature or a second helping of Rasayana Red Dal!
Rejuvenating Red Dal Recipe
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
For the pickled radishes:
- 1 cup daikon radish, chopped into half-moons
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon mineral salt
For the dal:
- 2 medium carrots, chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ teaspoon mineral salt
- ⅔ cup red dal
- ¼ cup grated daikon radish
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened dried coconut flakes, plus more to serve
- 2 tablespoons raisins
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon powder
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon hingvastak
- 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds, lightly crushed
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns, lightly crushed
- 4 celery stalks, chopped
- 1 bunch fresh dandelion greens, chopped
- Fresh cilantro, chopped
- Lemon wedges
To make the pickled radishes, place the daikon slices in a jar with the vinegar and ¼ teaspoon salt. Close the jar, then shake it vigorously for a few seconds. Let the radishes sit for a minimum of 10 minutes on the counter. The longer they sit, the more pickled they’ll get!
Place the carrots, bay leaf, and ½ teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan with enough water to cover them. Bring to a gentle boil over high heat, then lower the heat to maintain a simmer. Cover and cook for 10 minutes.
Place the dal in a small bowl with enough water to cover it completely and soak while the carrots are cooking (they don’t need a long soak time, if at all, so if you forget to soak them it’s okay). Strain and rinse the dal two or three times until the water runs clear.
Add the dal, grated daikon, coconut, raisins, ginger, and cinnamon to the pot with the carrots and add 1½ cups more water. Raise the heat to medium to bring to a gentle boil, then lower the heat and cover. Let simmer for 10 minutes until the dal is soft.
In a separate large sauté pan, add the olive oil and hingvastak over low heat. Cook until the spices begin to bubble slightly, about 3–5 minutes, then add the cumin and black pepper. Stir to combine, and let cook for another 1–2 minutes, until the spices are fragrant.
Add the celery and dandelion to the pan. Stir gently to coat in the spices, then cover and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, until the vegetables are soft but still bright green.
When the dal is done, remove from heat and blitz with an immersion blender until smooth.
To serve, ladle a scoop of dal then a scoop of vegetables into each bowl. Garnish with a few slices of pickled radish, fresh cilantro, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and additional coconut flakes, as desired.
Your leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.