Monday, June 27, 2011

You'll Eat It and Like It!

Cooking Adventure: Red Lentil Curry
The Bellydance Soundtrack: Killing an Arab by Speed Caravan
Prep Time: 15 min.
Cook Time: 25 min

Perhaps we all hit that point in our lives when we realize that our parents were right to make us eat our vegetables. We hit the point where we're forced to provide our own meals and, after the four year chips and soda binge that is college, figure out that maybe we should actually start listening to our parents on the basis of what goes into our bodies. Granted, in my case the rediscovery of vegetables was a bit different.

My mom grew up with her upper middle class company-managing father and a classic 50's housewife mother. It was a magical era that was defined and graced by commercials showing ladies shocked and amazed by the newfangled kitchen gadgetry. I could kill the 50's for giving us the microwave. I'm not sure when my grandma got her first one, but I'm sure that her own religious devotion to the microwaving culture was passed down to my mother. I really hope it's not genetic. I don't remember any vegetable in our house ever being pan-cooked, blanched or even grilled. Everything that I can remember went through the microwave. Yup, just as easy as putting a little water in a Tupperware container, plop in the veggies, and in four to five minutes out would pop the plants in all their steaming, bland, mushy glory. 

For years I thought that I hated brussel sprouts, carrots, broccoli (unless it was piled high with Molly McButter powdered butter), and squash (unless that was drenched in brown sugar). I remember the first time I went to my in-laws' house for the first time and my now mother-in-law announced that she was making meat loaf and brussel sprouts "Well, won't we be farty tonight!" she declared with a grin. (I have never been so aware of the food I eat and how it affects my sphincter as I have been after I met my in-laws.) By this time I was 21 and had developed an excellent ability to down even the worst cooking. As we set the table I mentally prepared for what was to come. 

What ultimately came to the table was not at all what I expected. Pan-cooked, halved brussel sprouts with butter, lemon juice, olive oil and pepper. They were a little burn on the cut half - just enough to make them a little crispy & tender. The meatloaf didn't come out of the oven - smothered in Hunt's ketchup and cut into soggy, bread-shaped pieces. It came from the grill, with ketchup as an actual OPTION. That was the first time in my entire life that I asked for seconds on either food. 

So it hit me that night that it wasn't that I didn't like vegetables - I didn't like the way my mom cooked vegetables. I have hit a similar dilemma with my husband who is convinced that no lentils can be good, and that I will eventually kill him with my plant-centered diet. I made this batch of red lentil curry over the weekend while he's been on a roller derby trip across the country. The dish is so good that I'm sure he'll have his own epiphany when he gets home today. :)

 - 2 cups red lentils
 - 1 large onion, diced
 - 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
 - 2 tablespoons curry paste
 - 1 tablespoon curry powder
 - 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
 - 1 teaspoon ground cumin
 - 1 teaspoon chili powder
 - 1 teaspoon salt
 - 1 teaspoon white sugar
 - 1 teaspoon minced garlic
 - 1 teaspoon ginger root, minced
 - 1 (14.25 ounce) can tomato puree *I just poured it into the onion mix until it was about what I wanted. I ended up using a bit less than 14.25oz, and it came out way less liquidy that way.

1. Wash the lentils in cold water until the water runs clear (this is very important or the lentils will get "scummy"), put the lentils in a pot with water to cover and simmer covered until lentils tender (add more water if necessary). 
2. While the lentils are cooking: In a large skillet or saucepan, caramelize the onions in vegetable oil. 
3. While the onions are cooking, combine the curry paste, curry powder, turmeric, cumin, chili powder, salt, sugar, garlic, and ginger in a mixing bowl. Mix well. When the onions are cooked, add the curry mixture to the onions and cook over a high heat stirring constantly for 1 to 2 minutes. 
4. Stir in the tomato puree and reduce heat, allow the curry base to simmer until the lentils are ready. 
5. When the lentils are tender drain them briefly (they should have absorbed most of the water but you don't want the curry to be too sloppy). Mix the curry base into the lentils and serve immediately.


Lilith Noor said...

Sounds divine! I hope it converted your hubby.

I was brought up on a similar diet of copious but miserable veg. Only now I've moved out has my mum expanded her repertoire to do things to vegetables other than boil them!

Kitty said...

Ah yes, Lilith, I too had the over-boiled veg dilemmas in my youth. My mum did great but everything was boiled to an inch of its veggie life. I love broccoli and brussels but only since I learned to cook for myself.

Lentils are still a suspect veg in my world but will be giving this recipe a try. Thanks :)

Anne said...

My fiance had the same history! We're vegetarian now, but he still gets shivers when his mom invites us over for dinner.

How'd your husband like it?!?