Curried Red Lentils with Fried Cauliflower and Peanuts
I just returned home to Colorado from Sunny Southern California. The average temperature there was in the 60s. Today the high is 38 freakin' degrees - which is about 30 degrees warmer than it's been in the last week.
Winter, I'm kinda over you.
But if you must snow me in and prevent me from manufacturing my own vitamin D from the beautiful sunshine, I'll celebrate the season by sharing this oh-my-god-I-didn't-know-lentils-could-be-this-good recipe with you.
What's the difference, you ask? Quite a lot, actually. In fact, although my love of lentils runs deep, my experience with the the many varieties of lentils is quite limited. The two lentils I cook with are brown lentils and hulled red lentils. These two types are easy to find in virtually any grocery store. Beyond these types, you're probably visiting a specialty store or need to take a quick trip to India.
Brown lentils is a generic term for the most common type of lentil you'll encounter in the store. Like all legumes, they are very high in protein. Compared to red lentils they are even higher in fiber - specifically insoluble fiber, the type of fiber that provides bulk to your diet (think: the ribs of celery as an example of insoluble fiber).
Brown lentils are hearty and stand up to cooking well - unless you cook too long or with too much water; then they can turn a bit mushy. They are a great vegetarian substitute for ground meat (try my Lentil Tater Tot Casserole as an example!).
Red lentils have a much different texture and use than brown lentils. This type of lentil is usually hulled and split, a process which removes the outer part of the legume which contains most of the aforementioned insoluble fiber.
Having been hulled, red lentils cook faster and are much softer than brown lentils. They have an almost creamy texture and lend themselves well to creamy stews. Although red at the outset of cooking, there color is more of a burnt orange or brown by the time they have finished cooking.
For a great overview of all the different kinds of lentils out there, check out this blog post from OhMyVeggies.com.
Today, I encourage you to try these super-yummy superfoods in this unique, mouth-watering dish.
Don't let the long list of ingredients for this recipe intimidate you. Middle-Eastern lentils dishes tend to use lots of spices that we're not as familiar with, but aren't necessarily going to make-or-break your dish. I use as many spices as I have, then don't worry if I've left out a few. My palate is not sensitive enough to miss the star anise I didn't use.
Start by melting 1/4 cup unsalted butter in a 6-quart saucepan. Dice a medium white onion and add to saucepan to sauté. Mince a clove of garlic and add to onion. Peel and mince about 2 teaspoons worth of fresh garlic and add to saucepan along with a teaspoon of your favorite mild curry powder, a pinch of fennel seeds, a star anise (which I didn't have when I made the recipe, so I skipped it), a cinnamon stick, and a teaspoon garam masala.
Sauté onion and spices until onions are translucent and soft, then add one pound (about 2 cups) dry red lentils and four cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 20-30 minutes until lentils are tender. If lentils become too dry and start to stick to bottom of the pan, add a little more water.
Once lentils have almost absorbed all the water, add one teaspoon salt, 1/4 cup yogurt, and cream to give lentils a loose consistency.
While lentils are cooking, wash a head of cauliflower and cut into 1-inch florets. Heat a tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and sauté cauliflower until starting to brown and tender. Season with juice from half a lemon.
Meanwhile, dry roast peanuts by tossing in a small skillet over medium high heat for 5-8 minutes. Shake pan to turn nuts to cook evenly. Remove from heat when starting to brown and heated through.
Serve lentils hot and top with cauliflower, two tablespoons peanuts, tablespoon of yogurt, and sprinkle of lemon juice.
Curried red lentils with fried cauliflower and peanuts
Curried Red Lentils
- 1/4 c. unsalted butter
- 1 white onion, peeled and diced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 tsp. fresh root ginger, finely diced
- 1 tsp. mild curry powder (no salt added)
- 1/8 tsp. fennel seeds
- 1 star anise (optional - I didn't use for this recipe)
- ½ cinnamon stick
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1 lb. red lentils (about 2 cups), washed and soaked for 30 minutes
- 4-5 c. water
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/4 c. plain yogurt (made with whole milk)
- 1/3 c. whole milk
Toppings: Fried Cauliflower, Peanuts, and Extras
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 cauliflower, broken into florets
- 1 lemon, juiced, divided
- 1/2 c. peanuts
- 1/4 c. plain yogurt
- In 6-quart saucepan melt butter. Add onion, garlic, ginger and spices. Sauté until onions are translucent and soft, then add lentils and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 20-30 minutes until lentils are tender. If becoming too dry and lentils stick to bottom of the pan, add a little more water. Once lentils have absorbed nearly all the water, add salt, 1/4 cup yogurt, and cream to give lentils a loose consistency.
- While lentils are cooking, wash cauliflower and cut into 1-inch florets. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and sauté cauliflower until starting to brown and tender. Season with half the lemon juice.
- Meanwhile, dry roast peanuts: toss in a small skillet over medium high heat for 5-8 minutes, shaking pan to turn nuts to cook evenly. Remove from heat when starting to brown and heated through.
- Serve lentils hot and top with cauliflower, two tablespoons peanuts, tablespoon of yogurt, and sprinkle of lemon juice.
Whole dish: Serves 5 - Nutrients per serving: 628 calories -- 25g total fat -- 8g saturated fat -- 0g trans fat -- 31mg cholesterol -- 704mg sodium -- 72g total carbohydrates -- 30g fiber -- 8g sugar -- 32g protein
Lentils: Serves 5 - Serving Size: 1 cup - Nutrients per serving: 426 calories -- 12g total fat -- 6g saturated fat -- 0g trans fat -- 26mg cholesterol -- 639mg sodium -- 58g total carbohydrates -- 24g fiber -- 3g sugar -- 22g protein
Cauliflower: Serving Size: 3/4 cup - Nutrients per serving: 66 calories -- 3g total fat -- 0g saturated fat -- 0g trans fat -- 0mg cholesterol -- 50mg sodium -- 9g total carbohydrates -- 4g fiber -- 4g sugar -- 3g protein
Peanuts: Serving Size: 2 Tbsp. - Nutrients per serving: 107 calories -- 9g total fat -- 1g saturated fat -- 0g trans fat -- 0mg cholesterol -- 1mg sodium -- 4g total carbohydrates -- 2g fiber -- 1g sugar -- 4g protein
Yogurt: Serving Size: 1 Tbsp. - Nutrients per serving: 29 calories -- 1g total fat -- 1g saturated fat -- 0g trans fat -- 5mg cholesterol -- 14mg sodium -- 1g total carbohydrates -- 0g fiber -- 0g sugar -- 3g protein