Red Lentils Revisited

When I first became a vegetarian, I tried a lot of different foods that I would never have tried as a meat eater. One of those was red lentils, in which I did not like and have not eaten up until recently. I can’t remember how I made them, but my introduction to them was that of disdain and confusion. They were mushy, bland, and not even red!

It seems like red lentils have grown popular again, and after seeing many recipes and hearing much praise for this legume, I gave them a second chance last month. I must admit that I am now a fan, and love them for their taste, versatility, protein, and quick cooking time.

I can’t recall if I’ve seen red lentils at Albertsons and Walmart, but you can definitely find them at Sun Harvest, Jerusalem International Foods (5360 N. Mesa), Spice Market (5435 N. Mesa), and other import stores around town. Eastsiders can most likely find red lentils at Cielo Vista Natural Market (8900 Viscount), Wan Jia Le (9501 Gateway Blvd. W), and Super Target.

I’m sharing two recipes with you that seem very similar, but really do have different flavors and textures. The first recipe is perfect for tailoring to your preferences, and especially good for getting rid of any vegetables you may have laying around. The original recipe called for zucchini, but I didn’t have any, and I needed to use up a large tomato quickly. I decided to add in frozen peas for texture, and because they’re one of my favorites.

I made the second recipe last night because I wanted to incorporate carrots, red bell pepper, and red lentils together. You may be wondering why I just didn’t make the first recipe since I just told you that you can alter it as you please. Well, I didn’t have any coconut milk and I wanted a slightly different flavor. I loved the flavors and texture of this recipe. It had a sweet, nutty flavor and a golden, rich and creamy texture.

Coconut Red Lentil Curry Over Basmati Rice

Coconut Red Lentil Curry
(adapted from Gourmet Magazine, see original recipe here)
Makes about 6 servings

½ medium onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tblsp finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt (less if using vegetable stock)
1 (2 1/2-inch) fresh jalapeño or serrano chile, finely chopped, including seeds
1-2 cups water or vegetable stock
1 cup dried red lentils
1 can unsweetened coconut milk
1 large tomato, roughly chopped
½-1 cup frozen peas (no need to thaw)
1 handful of fresh cilantro

1. Cook onion in oil in a 3½- to 4-quart heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until edges are golden (about 6 minutes).
2. Add ginger, garlic & cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add cumin, coriander, turmeric, salt, & chile & cook, stirring, 1 minute.
3. Add tomato, stir, then add in water, lentils, & coconut milk.
4. Simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.
5. Add peas & simmer for about 5 minutes, or until heat through & lentils are tender.
6.Season with salt & serve with cilantro sprigs scattered on top.

Red Lentil Carrot Soup & Basmati Rice

Red Lentil Carrot Soup
(also adapted from Gourmet magazine, see original recipe here)
Makes about 4-6 servings

¾ cup red lentils, picked over & rinsed
2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup water
¼ cup diced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp turmeric
½ pkg of baby carrots, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
cayenne to taste
fresh cilantro

1. Saute onions in olive oil for about 5 minutes or until golden.
2. Add bell pepper, carrots, & garlic; cook for about 5 more minutes.
3. Add coriander, cumin, & turmeric; cook for 1 minute or until fragrant.
4. Add stock & water; bring to a boil.
5. Add lentils & cook, covered for about 15 minutes or until veggies & lentils are tender.
6. Puree in batches, leaving some of the veggies & lentils intact for texture.
7. Add cayenne pepper & season with salt & pepper.
8. Garnish with cilantro & serve with Basmati rice.

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