coconut milk lentil soup

Despite it officially being Spring, Portland weather has been rather moody.  Ten minutes ago, there was a downpour.  Now, the sun is out.  All I want to do is slip into my velour jumpsuit, get under a blanket and read for hours.  Or do something equally as productive.  Or not.  And lucky for me, I can do just that.  Life’s really easy these days, and I’m taking full advantage, partly by treating myself to hot, home-cooked lunches (with naps to follow).

This dish is similar to the lentils I make as part my Indian feast, but because of the extra can of coconut milk, it’s soup.  Over time, it absorbs moisture and thickens, and is wonderful atop rice, couscous or quinoa, and even fresh greens.

Warm and comforting, here’s to you, a hug in a bowl.

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Materials

1 1/2 cups lentils (I used brown)
6 cups vegetable stock
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
2 cans coconut milk (I used one can full, one can “lite”)
8 ounces frozen spinach (or a few handfuls fresh spinach, kale or other greens), optional
coarse salt to taste

 

Protocol
1.  In a heavy-bottomed pot, combine lentils and stock, and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer, and allow to cook until lentils are soft (cooking time will depend on the type of lentils you choose).
2.  In a non-stick skillet, melt butter, add onions and cook on medium heat until translucent, about 15 minutes.
3.  Add the garlic and all spices, stir and cook for a minute.
4.  Transfer spiced onions and garlic into the pot with the lentils, and add the coconut milk and spinach, if using.  Simmer for about 10 minutes, then salt to taste.

red lentil chili

It’s no secret, I love lentils.  They do all kinds of good to me.  I’m also addicted to Pulse, which is a great time waster phone app that manages all my magazine, blog and recipe inspiration subscriptions.  This chili recipe popped up via the Meatless Monday feed (on a Monday afternoon, nonetheless), and I knew right away from the ingredient list that it would be a hit.  With a few adjustments, and a kick from my friend’s homemade pickled jalapeños, Monday’s dinner was underway.  As was meatless Tuesday’s lunch.

This soup can be ready in under 30 minutes, which, aside from imminent belly satisfaction, means only one other thing–  more time for Pulse surfing!  Do you use Pulse?  What are some of your favorite feeds?  Do you also get carried away in its awesomeness?

 

Materials (makes about 6 servings, adapted from Running with Tweezers)

1 medium yellow onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, finely diced
1/2 jalapeño, finely diced (scrape seeds out or omit for less/no heat)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup red lentils
3.5 cups water or vegetable broth
1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 can beans (I used pinto)
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp brown sugar
a few generous splashes of hot sauce (I used Cholula)
salt to taste

Protocol

1. Heat oil in a medium saucepan, add onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.

2. Add garlic and jalapeño, if using, stir and cook for another minute or so.

3. Throw in the lentils, and stir well to coat.  Add water/broth, tomatoes, spices and hot sauce.

4. Bring to a boil, cover partially, then reduce heat to a simmer and allow to cook for about 30 minutes, and remember to stir every once in a while so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot.

Super easy, filling and satisfies the meatless factor, whichever day of the week you choose to exercise it on.

an indian feast: curry red lentils, palak paneer, yellow basmati rice with cashews & spiced yogurt

One of my favorite cuisines, aside from Mexican food, potato chips and Nutella, is Indian.  I used to eat it often in California, but haven’t found a spectacular Indian restaurant in Portland yet, and I refuse to pay $47 for a meal to experiment.  So I’ve resorted to making my own.  Also, my dad likes it and requests “the Indian food” each time he visits.  So for more reasons than just one, it was important to have a staple feast recipe on hand.

Let’s start with the lentils.  Lentils are awesome.  Brown, red, yellow, black (also known as Beluga)… They’re all filling, full of protein, and they pack a fiber punch.  The other important players for this feast are paneer (a non-melting, mild-flavored Indian cheese that resembles firm tofu), spinach, yogurt, and a whole list of fragrant spices.  When I first attempted to cook anything Indian, I was intimidated by the lengthy list of ingredients each recipe called for.  It seemed that 9 out of 13 items was a spice, which deterred me every time.  This was before I discovered bulk spice bins.

Heard of cardamom?  It’s found in many Indian dishes, smells divine, and costs $50/pound.  My beloved New Seasons wants someone’s hourly wage for a 2-ounce jar, but the per recipe cost is in pennies (if purchased from the bulk bin).  I hope you don’t find this meal intimidating.  But do plan.  Always.

Let’s cook!

Materials and Protocols (serves 2-4, depending on hunger level)
Before I go on, a quick note: Kosher salt to taste in everything!

Lentils

1 Tbsp oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp red chili flakes
1 Tbsp curry powder
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp mustard powder
1 cup lentils, any variety can be used (note: brown will require more liquid and a longer cooking time)
4 cups vegetable broth, or water and an appropriate amount of bouillon, or just water if you don’t have either
1/2 (8 oz.) can coconut milk (full fat or “lite”)

Heat oil in a large, heavy pot.  Add onions and garlic and cook until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add spices, stir and cook for another 2 minutes.  Add lentils and stock/water, coconut milk and stir.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cover.  Stirring every 10 minutes or so, cook for 30-60 minutes.  NOTE: Cooking time of lentils depends on the type used.  Brown lentils contain a super high amount of fiber and usually take an hour to cook, whereas, yellow and red lentils are done in about 30 minutes because they contain slightly less fiber.

Palak paneer (palak = spinach, and paneer can be substituted with firm tofu to make the dish vegan)
1-2 Tbsp oil (I always use extra virgin olive, but go with the highest quality you have available)
1-1.5 lbs paneer, cubed
1 pound frozen spinach, thawed, blended in food processor
2 tomatoes, puréed
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp red chili flakes
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 can coconut milk (I use full fat, but the “lite” works just as well)

Heat oil in a heavy saucepan.  Add paneer, cover and cook, gently stirring often, until most of the cubes have browned.  When cooked, place the paneer onto a few paper towels, and set aside.  Reuse the same pan to heat a teaspoon of oil.  Add tomatoes and spices, and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add spinach, stir and cook covered, on medium heat, for 5-7 minutes.  Add coconut milk, paneer, stir and lower heat to a gentle simmer.  Cook for an additional 12-15 minutes.

Rice
2 cups basmati rice, cooked
1 Tbsp oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1/2 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp curry
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 cup cashews, or peanuts, coarsely chopped

Heat oil on medium heat in a heavy-bottomed pot.  Add onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add spices and nuts, stir and cook for another minute.  Toss into the rice, and stir well to combine.

Yogurt
2 cups plain yogurt (I use Greek, but it requires water to make it a bit runny)
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cardamom

Put all ingredients into a bowl and whisk together.  Sprinkle with a bit of cardamom prior to serving.