I think any of our regular readers know my affections for kale at this point. I do love that cruciferous veggie (in fact, this recipe sneaks in two cups of it), but I’ve been keeping quiet about another favorite food of mine. Possibly the the humblest legume out there, the lentil.
I don’t have a funny or inspiring story to tie into this recipe, so I’m just going to indulge in one of my favorite guilty pleasures, talking geeky about health food.
“What’s a lentil?” You ask. Well, I didn’t know either until about two years ago when I started eating a plant-based diet. I wish I had known about them when I was a college student trying to eat healthy on a tight budget. A pound of lentils costs less than $1.00 and will yield 5 cups of cooked lentils. Each cup boasts a whopping 17 grams of protein, 16 grams of fiber, folate (90% RDV), iron (35% RDV), magnesium, and much more, yet only has 1 gram of fat and 230 calories. All that, and they cook in 30 minutes (versus 4+ hours for most dry beans) with no soaking required.
Like most legumes, lentils aren’t a powerhouse of flavor on their own, but they pick up the flavors of whatever they are cooked in nicely. I use them in soups and spaghetti sauce all the time. This week, I discovered a new use for them. Instead of using canned beans or slow cooking kidney and black beans for my usual veggie chili recipe, I used lentils.
I know it’s warming up and, for some, chili is a winter dish, but I love any quick one-pot meal in the summer that doesn’t require turning on the oven or hovering over the stove for long. You can make a lot at once, and then take the next night off or easily pack up the leftovers for lunch at the office. And if you top it with a hit of diced avocado, some cilantro, and a squeeze of lime , it really brightens up the flavors and brings a bit of summer color to this warm dish.
What’s your favorite under-the-radar ingredient or food that you love to tell your friends about?
Rachel’s Lentil Veggie Chili
1 onion, diced
3 carrots, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 t. grated ginger
1 T. cumin
1 t. cayenne
1 t. salt
2 serrano chilies, whole
1 sweet potato, chopped
14 oz can of diced fire roasted tomatoes
1 cup (1/2 lb) dry green lentils, sorted for dirt & rocks* & rinsed
6 cups water
2 cups of frozen corn, thawed
2 cups kale, removed from stem
1 t. crushed red pepper flakes (optional for an extra spicy kick)
Other: Brown Rice and/or crackers, avocado, cilantro, & lime
In a large pot, heat a little bit of olive oil and saute onions and carrots with a pinch of salt on medium heat until soft. Add garlic and ginger and saute for 2 more minutes. Stir in cumin, cayenne, and salt. Add serrano chilies, sweet potato, tomatoes, lentil, and water. Cover and bring to a boil, lower to a simmer for 30 minutes with the lid tilted, stirring occasionally. Remove the lid. Add corn and kale & optional red pepper flakes. Simmer for 10 more minutes. If you want a thicker soup, continue to simmer uncovered until you reach the desired consistency.
Serve over brown rice or with crackers. Garnish with avocado, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime.
*Before cooking any dried legumes, pour them onto a solid surface, like a paper towel and sort through them looking for sticks, little rocks, or clumps of dirt. Please don’t skip this step. I find something in probably 50% of my dried beans. You don’t want you or your guests to bite into a rock!
I’m a curry coward. It’s exotic. It’s bright yellow. It has a long ingredient list.
So last night I decided to come up with a simple curry that even a curry coward like me can manage to make. I took the easy route and bought a can of curry powder instead of buying ten different spices and making my own. The first batch I made had lots of veggies and chickpeas, but I decided that three ingredients really stood out from the crowd — cauliflower, kale, and roasted garlic. So I made it again for breakfast this morning while the baby was napping. The life of a food blogging mama! This time I just used those two veggies and a whole bulb of roasted garlic. Much easier. Much better.
I don’t know if brown sugar is a classic addition, but I found it really balanced the strong curry flavors nicely. Curry powders can vary from brand to brand, so you may want to taste the seasoning as you go to see if it needs adjustments. Here’s the kind I used.
Are you intimidated about making your own curry too or was I the only curry coward?
What other dishes would you love to make but haven’t because they seem to complicated or overwhelming?
Roasted Cauliflower and Kale Curry
1 bunch of Kale, ribs removed, washed & dried well
1 head of Cauliflower, chopped into “trees”
1 bulb of Garlic
3 tbs Olive Oil, divided
~ 4 tbs Curry Powder, divided
4 tsp Brown Sugar, divided
1 tsp Salt, divided
1 can of Coconut Milk
16 oz Lentils, prepared per package instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut off the top of the garlic to reveal the top of each clove. Put the bulb on a piece of foil, drizzle olive oil on top, and wrap the clove tight with the foil. Put in the oven (directly on the rack is fine until you get the cauliflower in).
In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower “trees” with about 1 tbs olive oil. Tossing as you go, gradually add 1 tsp curry powder, 1 tsp brown sugar, and 1/2 tsp salt until evenly coated. Place on a large baking sheet sprayed with nonstick spray and put in the oven. (Move the garlic onto the baking sheet at this time.) Set the timer for 20 minutes.
In the same large bowl, toss the kale with 1 tbs olive oil, using your hands to massage it into the leaves. Tossing as you go, gradually add 2 tsp curry powder, 1 tsp brown sugar, and 1/2 tsp salt. Put the kale on a large baking sheet sprayed with nonstick spray. It will be crowded, but that’s okay, we aren’t looking for crisp kale chips so it can be a little crowded. Add the kale to the oven, leaving the garlic and cauliflower in too. Cook everything for 20 more minutes. You might want to give the cauliflower and kale a shake every now and then.
In a small sauce pan, heat 1 tbs olive oil on medium heat and add 3 tbs of curry powder. Stir and cook for about 2 minutes. Add 2 tbs brown sugar and 1 can of coconut milk. Stir.
When the timer goes off, turn the oven off and remove the garlic. You can leave the kale and cauliflower in the oven to stay warm while you finish up the sauce. Carefully (it will be really hot) take the garlic out of the foil and squeeze it into the curry sauce. You can just stir it in if the garlic is really oozy or put it into the blender for a few seconds to evenly incorporate it.
Serve veggies on a bed of lentils and top with curry sauce.
And just like that I’m over my fear of curry and you can be too!