Red Lentil-Cauliflower Curry

The first time I had curry I was a freshman in college. My dorm cafeteria had chickpea curry and basmati rice on the menu one night. Having an adventurous pallet, I went for it. Well, it was love at first bite. After that, I started frequenting local Indian restaurants. I wasn't satisfied by that, though---I had to learn how to make this stuff myself!

Tonight I tried another adventure in curry making---a curry with red lentils, which I have never cooked with before. In their raw form, red lentils look more like neon orange, however in the cooking process their color mellows to a mustard yellow. They're quick-cooking, which is ideal for me because some curries take a long time to make! The recipe I made tonight was another one from Veganomicon (by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero). It was Red Lentil-Cauliflower Curry. The lentils and cauliflower had a buttery, creamy texture. The flavor was brightened by the addition of cilantro and lime. Parsnip, which is one of the vegetables in this curry, was a very unusual addition; I had never had curry with parsnip in it. I happen to love parsnips---they're like spicy carrots, and they added some sweetness to the curry. One thing that I did change was the addition of garam massala, because I didn't think the spices were assertive enough. I added the garam masala 10 mintues after adding the cauliflower. I also cut back on the oil. The recipe calls for 3 tbsp of oil, but I opted for cooking spray, which worked just fine. This dish would probably work equally well with potatoes or chickpeas. I had this with basmati rice, but since there wasn't a lot of gravy in this curry, it would probably be good with naan bread or chapatis as well.

Red Lentil-Cauliflower Curry

*cooking spray (or 3 tbsp grapeseed or peanut oil)
1 lg onion, chopped
1 lg chile pepper (jalapeno or serrano), minced
2 lg shallots
1 (1/2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 lg parsnip, peeled and chopped
2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 cups red lentils, sorted and rinsed
4 cups water or vegetable broth
1 1/2- 2 lbs cauliflower (about one medium-size head), trimmed and sliced into small florets
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
2 tbsp lime juice
1 1/2 tsp salt
*2 tsp garam masala
*extra 1/2 cup water

1. Have all of the ingredients chopped and readily at hand.
2. In a large stockpot, heat oil (*or cooking spray) over medium heat. Saute the onion and shallots until tender and translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the grated ginger and chile, and saute for 1 minute. Add the spices and briskly stir0fry for 30 seconds, then add the parsnip and stir-fry for another minute.
3. Slowly pour in the vegetable broth (or water), then stir in the lentils. Cover the pot, raise the heat to high, boil for 1 minte. Give the mixture a stir, then cover the pot and lower heat to medium-low. allow the lentils to simmer for 10 to 12 minutes. They should turn light yellow and look mushy.
4. Add the cauliflower florets and *extra 1/2 cup water, stirring to coast with the lentils. Partially cover and cook 10 minutes, then add the *garam masala. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes more, until the cauliflower is tender but not completely falling apart. Remove from the heat and stir in chopped cilantro, lime juice, and salt.
5. Allow the curry to sit, covered, for about 15 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld and the mixture to cool slightly. Makes 4-6 (really large!) servings.

For 1 of 6 servings (made without oil):
Calories: 216
Fat: 0.8 g
Saturated fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 636 mg
Carbohydrates: 38.9 g
Fiber: 18.9 g
Sugar: 5.1 g
Protein: 15.2 g


As a side note, I just realized I forgot to add the turmeric. Turmeric doesn't do much in terms of flavor, but it would have made this whole thing a lot more yellow...

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