I’ve cooked yellow lentils. And I’ve made green lentil soup. (It turns out a bit grayish in color, but nonetheless delicious). But this was my first use of red lentils—which are, actually, more orange than red.
The recipe comes from the New York Times by way of my old friend, Yael, in Austin, who offered it on FB. In the recipe, the legumes get mixed with sweet potato chunks, spinach, garlic, onions, chicken broth, lime, a pepper, fresh ginger, turmeric, coconut milk, and Thai curry paste.
This drool worthy dish is bright in flavor and has the comfort of a warm hug.
Lentils are grown mainly in Turkey, India, and Canada and come in a rainbow of colors. The healthy, edible legume has no fat, cholesterol, and few carbs. When cooked, the brown and green varieties retain their shape well, making them suitable for casseroles and stews.
The red ones need no pre-soaking, have a sweeter taste, and cook very quickly. They “melt,” that is, dissolve into a thick soup.
Those acquainted with Indian cuisine might refer to this recipe as Masoor Dal (Spiced Red Lentils). But sometimes such names scare off those who think a dish might be overly spicy or strange. That’s not the case with this wonderful vegetarian dish. You can regulate the heat by the type of chile pepper used and the amount of Thai red curry paste.
Add the Heat You Like
On my first try, I cut back to 2 Tbs. of red curry paste and used a jalapeno pepper rather than the serrano. It was not overly spicy, so I “heated” it up on my plate with a jolt of hot sauce. Next time I would probably add a few raisins and sprinkle the top with slivered almonds rather than the coconut.
Best of all this dish comes together in less than an hour and has the texture and taste of the Dal served in Indian restaurants.
Red Curry Lentils with Sweet Potatoes and Spinach
3 Tbs. olive oil
1 lb. sweet potatoes (about 2 medium sweet potatoes), peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 Tbs. Thai red curry paste
3 garlic cloves, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated (about 1 Tbs.)
1 red chile, such as Fresno or serrano, halved, seeds and ribs removed, then minced
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1 cup red lentils, rinsed
4 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 (13-oz.) can full-fat coconut milk
1 (4- to 5-ounce) bag baby spinach
½ lime, juiced
Fresh cilantro leaves, for serving
Toasted unsweetened coconut flakes, for serving (optional)
In a Dutch oven or pot, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high. Add the sweet potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned all over, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the browned sweet potatoes to a plate and set aside.
Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pot and set the heat to medium-low. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the curry paste, garlic, ginger, chile and turmeric, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the lentils, stock, salt and browned sweet potatoes to the pot and bring to a boil over high. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are just tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
Add the coconut milk and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced and the lentils are creamy and falling apart, 15 to 20 minutes.
Add the spinach and stir until just wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the lime juice and season with salt to taste.
Serve over rice and top with cilantro and coconut flakes, if desired.