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 a mere 38 degrees - which is about 30 degrees warmer than it's been in the last week.
Winter, I'm kind of 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 Tablespoon of your favorite mild curry powder and a four-teaspoon cinnamon (or half a cinnamon stick).
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 about 30 minutes until lentils are tender and have absorbed almost all of the liquid. If lentils become too dry and start to stick to bottom of the pan, add a little more water.
Once lentils are fully cooked, 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 fourth-cup 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 medium white onion
2-3 cloves garlic
2 tsp. fresh minced ginger
1 Tbsp. curry powder
1/2 cinnamon stick OR 1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1 lb. red lentils (about 2 cups)
4-5 c. water
1 tsp. salt
1/4 c. plain yogurt
1/3 c. whole milk
Toppings: Fried Cauliflower, Peanuts, and Extras
1/4 c. olive oil
1 medium head cauliflower
1 lemon, juiced, divided (about 4 Tbsp.)
1/2 c. peanuts
6 Tbsp. plain yogurt
In a 6-quart saucepan melt butter over medium-low heat.
While butter melts, dice onion, mince garlic, and mince ginger. Add to pot to begin to sauté as they are ready.
Turn heat to medium and add curry powder and cinnamon. Continue to sauté until onions are translucent and spices are fragrant.
Add lentils and water to pot. Turn up heat to high to bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, about 30 minutes until lentils are very tender and have absorbed all liquid. Stir lentils occasionally; if becoming too dry and lentils start to stick to bottom of the pot, add a little more water.
While lentils cook, fry cauliflower: wash cauliflower and cut into 1-inch florets. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat , add cauliflower florets and sauté until tender enough to insert a fork and are starting to brown. Stir in half the lemon juice to season.
While cauliflower sautés, dry roast peanuts: add peanuts to a small skillet (without oil) and heat over medium-high heat 5-8 minutes, shaking pan to turn nuts and cook evenly. Remove from heat when starting to brown and hot.
Once lentils have absorbed all the water, stir in salt, 1/4 cup yogurt, and whole milk. Remove from heat and serve lentils topped with cauliflower, peanuts, yogurt, and a sprinkle of lemon juice.
Prep time: 25-30 min // Cook time: 30 min // Total time: 50-60 min // Serves 6 - Serving Size: 1 c. lentils + 1/2 c. cauliflower + 1 1/2 Tbsp. peanuts + 1 Tbsp. yogurt -- Nutrients per serving: 513 calories -- 24g total fat -- 7g saturated fat -- 0g trans fat -- 24mg cholesterol -- 607mg sodium -- 55g total carbohydrates -- 23g fiber -- 7g sugar -- 23g protein