Tuesday, January 12, 2010


January is always such a let down for me. The holidays are over and I know the months to come are going to be filled with rain, wind, and more rain. The days are short and the sun is down before my oldest is even home from school. He usually bursts in the door, drenched and winded from running up the hill on his way home.

We bought tickets to Hawaii in April and have done nothing but walk around the house singing "We're going to Ha-waii, we're going to Ha-waii" to each other. It's a much needed break from winter here in Western Washington. I'm looking forward to fresh pineapple and mango, light and sweet meals. My boys are beyond thrilled, and I have heard the oldest two whispering to each other long after they should been asleep about what they are going to do there. My middle son came to me yesterday and told me to make sure we pack lots of blankets, we'd need them for sleeping on the beach. I think we neglected to tell him that there is more to Hawaii than the beach. Such as hotels.

But, for now, we're here in rainy, windy Washington and need hearty, filling meals. In the past few years I have discovered lentils and wondered where they'd been my entire life. I love nothing more than a big bowl of curried lentils, it's fast becoming my go to comfort meal. I've been thinking a lot about my mom the past few days, and it dawned on me where my previous lentil aversion was coming from. Lentil burgers. If you were in my family around 1986 those two words would strike fear in your heart. I'm not old enough to remember any part of the tale, but it's been told so many times I have a vivid picture of how it went down. My mom is an original hippie, growing up in Eugene, Oregon and still carries that spirit with her to this day. I was so embarrased of that when I was a teenager. I love it now. Anyway, I'm guessing she thought lentils would make a perfect replacement for ground beef, to make a hearty, healthy burger. I'm not sure where that vision went wrong, but it did. Horribly, horribly wrong. She put those burgers down in front of us as we all sat around the table. We all looked to our dad for the first bite. We were smart like that. And he made it so none of us had to touch the things. One bite from him and they all went out to the dog. The dog who, bless her heart, ate anything and everything. Would not eat them. Would not touch them. And so, they went down in history.

Curried Red Lentils with Potatoes and Chickpeas

I always use fire roasted Muir Glen tomatoes in this, it adds such a nice complex flavor. You could leave the potato unpeeled if you'd like, the skin won't take away anything from this. I serve over a pile of quinoa, but basmati rice would be equally good.

2 cups red lentils
1 large russet potato, peeled and diced
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 crushed or diced tomatoes
1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans)

Wash the lentils in cold water until the water runs clear (this is very important or the lentils will get "scummy"), put the lentils and diced potato in a pot with water to cover and simmer covered until both are tender. Add more water as necessary. This usually takes me about 15-20 minutes. The lentils will loose their individual look and begin to look more mushy. That's your signal.

While the lentils are cooking: In a large skillet or saucepan, caramelize the onions in vegetable oil.

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 med-high heat stirring constantly for 1 to 2 minutes.
Stir in the tomatos and chickpeas and reduce heat, allow the curry base to simmer until the lentils are ready.

Mix the curry base into the lentils and serve immediately.

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