Red Lentil Dip with Caramelized Onions

We don't have regular TV programming which makes our twice monthly movie nights a real treat. The kids jealously guard this practice and are like two little excited rats planning, setting the stage, making sure nothing gets in the way of our night. "Is it movie night yet?" usually starts the Monday of. I just love how something so simple can build up such excitement. 

The ritual begins with a trip to the library to borrow a film. I plan and prepare a dinner menu that we can eat while watching. (This is the one exception to the do-not-eat-mindlessly rule). Parked in front of the TV with our plates piled high, we are first entertained by my daughter's imitation of the standard pre-movie warnings about cellphone use. Blinds drawn, lights dimmed down, it is then showtime. 

One of my favourite things to serve on such nights is a dinner of dips with plenty of fresh baked bread, crackers, vegetables and olives. It makes serving and eating, fun and clean up, easy. A recipe from my dip arsenal that we have been really enjoying of late is a silky lentil and caramelized onion one. Red lentil, most commonly associated with Indian dal preparations is given a bit of an Italian flair with woodsy rosemary and fennel. Dressed generously with crisp sweet onions, a splash of good olive oil, this is a nice change from the bean dips and hummus that we can't get enough of. 

Great warm or cold, this is also a good sandwich spread. 

Red Lentil Dip with Caramelized Onions
Serves 4
1 cup, red lentils or masoor dal
1/4 tsp. dried rosemary or 1/2 tsp. fresh chopped leaves
1/4 tsp. fennel seeds
1 clove garlic, finely minced
Salt, pepper and crushed chili flakes to taste
2 large onions, sliced
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar (optional)
3 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. olive oil

Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large, wide pan over medium low heat. Tip in the onions and toss to coat. In a few minutes, the onions will soften and start to release water. Raise the heat and cook for 10-12 minutes until they are beautifully browned. Add balsamic vinegar if using or just plain water to the pan to prevent sticking. Raise the heat and sauté for a few more minutes without stirring until the onions are crispy at the bottom.

Place the lentils in a sieve and wash them under running water, until the water runs clean.
Heat 1 tsp. olive oil in a saucepan and sauté the garlic until it starts to turn golden.
Throw in the lentils, rosemary, fennel, chili flakes, salt and pepper. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to a gentle simmer and cook until the lentils are soft. Lentils can burn quickly so be sure to add water if necessary and do not walk away. 

Whisk the cooked lentils until smooth. Transfer into a wide bowl. Drizzle with remaining olive oil and top with caramelized onions.