Coconut Lentil Curry with Quinoa

I like to pretend like every day I plan some amazing meal and go all-out to cook it, but the truth is most of the time I’m excruciatingly lazy and like, whip something together out of whatever is in my house. (Or just eat omelettes. I eat a lot of breakfast for dinner. I won’t tell if you won’t.)  I was a little low on basics last week and as I desolately stared at the leftover vegetables, lentils, and coconut milk in my pantry, I remembered that Caroline posted a tasty-sounding lentil curry soup recipe a while ago, and I’d been all about some really tasty curried lentils I had at a dinner party a few weeks ago.  I was also craving Indian or Thai takeout, but all the options that deliver to my house are super oily and not great. I figured I’d wing it and try to come up with something similar to all those things, with whatever I had in the house. Miraculously, it turned out to be maybe one of the tastiest things I’ve ever made (despite the rather unflattering photo) and is definitely going to become a staple.

It’s also vegan, for those of you who care about that kind of stuff, and is super healthy and full of protein and fiber and other good stuff, and even my super-carnivorous other half (“Meg, all the food you make is basically vegetable mush, I want a steak”) admitted that it was damn good.  It’s also relatively cheap, and the huge pot that this recipe yielded fed me for like a week.  

SO! Onward! You will need:

  • Lentils (I cheat sometimes and get the already cooked ones from Trader Joe’s, so either those, or dry ones that you’ve already prepared/soaked.)
  • 1 piece fresh ginger root
  • 2 onions
  • lots of garlic (about half a bulb, or a whole one if it’s small)
  • oil
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • spices you like: curry, cumin, pepper, cinnamon, garam masala, etc
  • vegetables: I used zucchini, bell peppers, carrots, and spinach.
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1 large bunch fresh cilantro


FOOD POST TIME Y’ALL.  Mixing sweet and savory is kind of my jam, and while my usual breakfast is pretty modest (yogurt with some almonds, fruit and a protein bar, toast with peanut butter and honey, etc) I actually have a huge weakness for breakfast pastries and muffins and sweetbreads and so on.  These muffins — with no butter but full of omega-3’s from olive oil, and fiber from apples and whole wheat flour — let me pretend that there’s some sort of vague nutritional value in something so tasty.  These seriously are delicious — you’ll be amazed at how light and fluffy they are and at how well the flavor of the olive oil comes through.  They’re amazing right out of the oven spread with some fig jam or mascarpone cheese or apple butter, but keep pretty well wrapped in foil for a few days as well.

recipe after the jump, adapted from here

sea salt toffee

It really amuses me when things which are actually relatively simple to make - for example, sea salted caramel/toffee/chocolate - become trendy in a way which seems intimidatingly gourmet.  Toffee (and other sugar-based candies like marshmallows and butterscotch) are suprisingly easy - and the addition of a dark chocolate and a sprinkle of sea salt makes for an impressive-looking gift.  It does take a bit of patience and probably a few botched batches before you perfect it, but when I say simple, I mean simple.

What you need for a basic butter tofffee is:

• 1 cup butter
• 1 cup sugar
• a stove, a saucepan, a wooden spoon, and a large piece of aluminum foil on a hard heatproof surface

quinoa for breakfast

I’m always surprised by how much feedback I get asking about my food posts and cooking — so here’s some more.  I’ve gotten really into roasting vegetables lately, because it’s probably the healthiest and easiest damn thing possible — whatever vegetables are fresh at the market (carrots and cauliflower roast particularly well, as do red onions, peppers, and anything squash or zucchini-like), a drizzle of olive oil, and some spices (salt and pepper is fine, though curry, masala, herbs de provence, and italian seasonings also are great for specific flavors), stir that all up in a Pyrex baking dish and pop it in the oven at 375 for an hour… in the last ten minutes or so, you can add in some beans (or something sweet like raisins and nuts for a Moroccan tagine-style dish.) It’s incredibly simple, ridiculous how tasty and awesome it comes out, and it takes about as long as it takes to chop a carrot to prepare.

Sunday night’s dinner:  a mix of carrots, cauliflower, zucchini, red onions, and butternut squash, roasted with a bit of curry and served over quinoa.

Cara-Mia asked me about quinoa — it’s a grain, but I find it easier to cook than rice (which I eternally burn and think is bland anyhow), and it has much higher protein + fiber content than other grains, and I like the nuttier flavor and slightly crunchy texture. (Never gets mushy like other grains, unless you seriously overcook it.)

Whenever I make grains I add the oil/salt/etc afterwards to taste rather than cooking with it, because I like to save the leftovers (if there are any) for breakfast the next morning — I reheat them just a bit more with some cinnamon, vanilla, fresh berries, and a bit of heavy cream (okay, seriously, two teaspons of heavy cream is like thirty calories added that make basically anything amazing, you are missing out if you don’t have this in your fridge.)  

Any grain works with this really, but I find quinoa (and even couscous) are great oatmeal substitutes and work really well as hot whole-grain cereals as well.