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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Curried Lentils with Toasted Sunflower Seeds

Now I must confess, I can't actually recall the last time I've had proper Indian cuisine. Which is odd considering I'm a vegetarian, and most of their culture is as well. Usually when I'm in the mood for Indian, I'll just throw in some curry and chili powder to whatever I'm making and call it a day. Tofu scrambles with curry powder count as Indian food, right? But lately I've been wanting to get a bit more authentic. I usually don't follow recipes when I'm cooking, but I did do some snooping around on the Internet to get a couple of ideas. I also wanted to keep it simple because I'm not one of the people that had red curry paste or garam masala on hand. I know, I'm such an awful foodie! 

So this weekend I finally put all of my ideas into a few pots and pans and hoped for the best. What I got may not have been completely authentic Indian, but it was absolutely delicious, and I can't wait to make it again! 

Curried Lentils with Toasted Sunflower Seeds
Serves 1-2 (1 larger meal, or two smaller meals)
  • 1/2c. lentils, dry (green are best, others will get too mushy)
  • 1/4c. red onion, chopped
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2c. mushrooms, diced (buttons or crimini would work best)
  • 2t. olive oil
  • 3T. tomato paste
  • 1/2-1 1/12c. water (or low sodium vegetable broth)
  • 2-3 big handfuls of baby spinach, long stems removed
  • 1T. curry powder
  • 1t. ground cumin
  • 1-2t. sriracha or hot sauce (to taste)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2T. raw* or toasted sunflower seeds
1. Cook lentils according to package until they reach desired tenderness.
2. In a sauce sauté pan over medium-high heat, add oil. Toss in onions and garlic and stir frequently until fragrant. Add in mushrooms and stir. 
3. Add cooked lentils and gently stir to combine ingredients. Begin seasoning by the ingredient list (I didn't actually measure out my seasonings, I just did everything to taste, but listed above is a rough estimate of what I used. Please accommodate to your own preferences).
4. Add in tomato paste and stir. Start adding water (or broth) in 1/2c. intervals. Stir after each addition of liquid and continue to add until desired viscosity (it shouldn't be like soup, but it should also not be thick and paste-like).
5. Add the spinach and stir until completely combined and leaves begin to wilt.
6. Adjust salt, pepper, hot sauce, and other spices to taste.
7. Serve hot over brown or basmati brown rice and top with toasted sunflower seeds.
*If you're weird like me and buy raw sunflower seeds in bulk, simply toast them in a dry pan or medium heat for 1-2 minutes, tossing frequently, being careful not to burn them. 

Authentic or not, I can tell you that my belly was very happy with this meal. The toasted sunflower seeds really made the dish, and I kind of added them to the recipe just to get some different texture, but the nutty flavor complemented the spicy, tomatoey lentils so well. They are absolutely essential! I loved this dish so much that I'm actually going to be making it again tonight for me and a friend. 

Something to think about: How often do you try cooking different cuisines?