February 19, 2021. Dear Daughters- This dish, featuring the quickest cooking of all lentils- red- draws you in with “creamy” lentils simmered in a broth resplendent in warm spices and continues to keep your interest with contrasting pops of crispy lentils and earthy hints of smooshed pistachios. Can you figure out the two ways the lentils are being cooked here? 10 Bonus Points if you thought simmered and pan fried!
I also, want to point out the star of the show- crispy lentils! I was going to make these optional, but after tasting them, I couldn’t stop snacking on them, wondering why people are spending their time on crispy chickpeas- which always seem dry and tooth breaking in my experience- when you have these much quicker cooking and delicately crunchy bits.
Yes, I know the recipe title is long, but I think that makes it a little funny, in a Dad sort of way. You can call it a “Tasty Bowl of Red Lentils” for short, if you prefer.
Prep Time: 15 minutes, with an inactive, overnight Crispy Lentil Soak
Cook Time: 15-20 minutes
GET YOUR STUFF OUT
- The Base.
- 1-2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 1 medium carrot, diced
- 1 medium celery stalk, diced
- 1-2 jalapeños, minced, saving a bit for garnish, if you wish
- kosher salt to taste, about 1 teaspoon
- 1 tablespoon good curry powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, optional
- 1 1/2 cups red lentils, rinsed and drained a few times to get the “stuff” off and looked over to remove any small pebbles (rare, but possible)
- 2-3 garlic cloves, grated or minced
- 1” piece ginger, grated or minced
- The Broth.
- 2 cups of crushed tomatoes, crushing canned whole tomatoes with your clean hands is best
- 4-6 cups vegetable broth, depending on how soupy you like it
- 1/2 cup coconut milk and a bit more for garnish, optional
- 1 lemon, juice added to taste
- Crispy Lentils.
- 1/4 cup red lentils, rinsed and drained a few times to get the “stuff” off and looked over to remove any small pebbles (rare, but possible) and then soaked, covered in at least twice as much water, overnight
- 1-2 teaspoons canola oil
- kosher salt to taste, about 1/4 teaspoon
- 1/4 teaspoon each, onion, garlic and curry powder
- 2-4 ounces baby spinach
- 2-3 cups cooked rice- treating rice as an enhancement, instead of a side dish, is a great way to portion control carbs
- 1/3 cup pistachios, shelled and smooshed- the bottom of a sturdy measuring cup is great at smooshing
- Crispy Lentils, recipe follows
- 2-4 tablespoons coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon minced jalapeño
- 1/2 cup refreshing green leafs, like cilantro or celery, cut or torn into small pieces
COOK AND PLAY
You would be missing out if you didn’t fire up some Voodoo Woman by Soulmate, a group that features one of India’s premier, female blues vocalists, when you cook up your lentils. I highly recommend this listen!
Please don’t forget to soak 1/4 cup of red lentils overnight, covered in at least twice as much water, to soften for frying. The 1 1/2 cups of lentils to be simmered do not need to be soaked and will cook in as soon as 10 minutes, nonetheless.
- The Veg. Preheat a large pot, like a Dutch Oven, over medium heat and then add canola oil, and onion. Once onion begins to sweat, add carrot, celery and jalapeño and cook until onion starts to take on some golden brown color.
- Spicy Lentils. Stir in lentils, curry powder and cinnamon to allow both to toast a bit- about 2-3 minutes.
- Heat Sensitive Aromatics. Stir in garlic and ginger and give them just a minute before adding the liquids.
- Broth. Add 4 cups of broth, tomatoes and coconut milk, if using, and simmer, stirring from time to time, until lentils are tender- as soon as 10 minutes, but perhaps 5-10 minutes more.
- Textural Healing. Red lentils don’t hold their shape as well as other lentils so your pot will start to look a bit “creamy” once the lentils start breaking down, but that’s a good thing. I was happy with the texture and consistency after 10 minutes and 4 cups of broth, but it’s really up to you. You can break the lentils down further with a bit more cooking and a vigorous whisking and add more broth if you want a consistency more like soup than a stew.
- Crispy Lentils. While the soup is simmering, dry lentils you soaked overnight in kitchen towel and preheat a medium skillet over medium high heat with 1-2 teaspoons canola oil. Add mostly dry lentils and sprinkle with salt to taste, onion garlic and curry powder.s Adjust heat to toast until crispy, stirring or tossing like a fancy chef from time to time, about 10 minutes- taste to make sure you have a good crisp. Set aside.
- Final Seasoning. Stir lemon juice into lentil pot and taste for final adjustments; adding more lemon juice, coconut milk (if using), salt, pepper, spices as you see fit.
- Enhancements. Stir spinach into lentils until “melted” and then portion into bowls, topping each bowl with a mound of rice, smooshed pistachios, minced jalapeno, drizzle of coconut milk, crispy lentils and refreshing green leaves.
An Even Quicker Version. I realize you girls can be pressed for time to cook with all that “studying” at school, so you can fast track this recipe and still end up with a delicious bowl of red lentils by leaving out the carrots, celery, jalapeño, ginger, garlic, coconut milk and/or one or all of the enhancements! Still, if you left out the Crispy Lentils, you would be missing out on a lot of tasty and crunchy fun!
So Many Spices, So Little Time. Red lentils are made and spiced all over the world- India, North Africa, Turkey, Italy, Greece and so on- I’ve even seen Kung Pao, Korean and Mexican spiced red lentils. With so many options out there, you should experiment to come up with your own spice and fresh flavor blend that you like best. I start you off with a curry powder in this recipe because curry powder is a spice blend that gives you a variety of tantalizing spices in one jar. Spices found in curry blends include turmeric, red pepper, coriander, ginger, cumin, fenugreek, cinnamon, fennel, nutmeg, cardamom and cloves. If you were to go with just one spice, I would suggest toasted and ground cumin. I also added a lot of fresh flavors to this recipe as well- green chile, garlic, ginger, tomato, lemon and coconut milk, but use any, all and/or others that you like.
“Red” Lentils! First of all, and I can’t believe more people aren’t talking about this- red lentils are not even red! Now, I know Dads aren’t supposed to be good at “colors”, but come on- red lentils are orange! A beautiful orange, but orange nonetheless. They remind me of the orange from my 1970s, orange and avocado childhood kitchen- all the rage back then. Secondly, I was mad at red lentils, the most attractive of the commonly available lentils for sure, the first time I cooked with them. This was because the promise of their alluring color quickly disappeared as they began to cook! Still, you can enhance their cooked color with the addition of colorful ingredients and even get them back to a shade of orange with red (tomatoes) and yellow (turmeric) ingredients if you are so inclined.
Bonus Points. If you recall, I gave you 10 bonus points earlier in this post if you knew the two ways the lentils are cooked- simmered and fried. If you were wondering about the origin story of “Bonus Points”, they started when you were very young after I awarded one of you 1000 Bonus Points for using the potty. You were so excited to get the completely random Bonus Points and they worked so well in behavior modification, I started doling them out for most of your good or intelligent deeds. I have to admit, I’m very surprised you never tried to redeem your bonus points, but don’t get any ideas now because they expired when you turned 18. On the other hand, I think you both earned well over 100,000 Bonus Points- so congratulations on that noteworthy accomplishment!
Keyword: lentils, soups, curries, stews, spice of life, vegan
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