Meatless Monday again! Today, I’ll give you an important tip for up’ing the flavor in many meatless dishes. It’s a good tip for many dishes, actually. It’s extra-important in vegetarian food.
Brown your onions! It adds such depth of flavor. It’s a common technique in Indian food, meatless or not. Experiment with dishes containing bold spices. I bet they are even better with browned onions.
Red lentils cook up pretty quickly. They turn yellow when cooked and have a smooth texture compared to brown lentils. Red lentils have become easy to find. I found them in all the major supermarkets in town. Usually, they are in the bulk section. You can also get them in Indian markets. Many supermarket produce sections now sell prepped butternut squash. Butternut squash can be a bear to peel and cut up, so this is a boon for squash lovers who find the peeling/cutting up daunting.
Red Lentil and Squash Curry
1 cup dried red lentils, rinsed
3 cups water
½ teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
pinch of cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 cups butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
½ cup – ¾ cup low sodium vegetable stock
1 teaspoon salt (less if your stock is salty)
Combine red lentils, water, and ½ teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower heat to maintain a simmer, and partially cover. Cook until tender and nearly all the water is absorbed, about 30-40 minutes.
Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until nicely browned, about 15 minutes. As the onions brown, you may have to reduce the heat to assure they don’t burn. Stir often for even browning.
Add the garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne, and black pepper. Cook, stirring, for about a minute until the spices are fragrant. Add the squash, ½ cup vegetable stock, and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir to combine. Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the squash is tender. If the moisture cooks away, add the last ¼ cup stock. When the squash is cooked, add the lentils and any cooking liquid. Stir to combine. Check for salt. Serve over hot rice.
Adapted from a recipe in Kitchen Garden magazine, Dec. 1996/Jan. 1997.