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Dinner Tonight: Curried Red Lentils with Coconut Milk

I don't cook with dried lentils often, but every time I do, I vow to use them more. A legume just like beans, they're a cheap, healthy, low-fat source of protein and fiber--but unlike beans, you don't need to plan ahead by soaking or cook them for hours. Usually I stick to the green puy lentil (also known as French lentils) for their tendency to stay intact while cooking and their earthy taste, but this recipe called for the red variety, known in Indian cuisine as "dal," which cooks in 15 minutes or so. "Dal" is also the name for this common dish.

The spices here are pretty basic Indian -- cumin, coriander, turmeric, chili, and garlic -- but I was thrown off by coconut milk, which I associate with Thai curries. I'm not sure if it was authentic or not, but it did wonders to the lentils, adding a subtle sweetness that brought out the same in the lentils. Even though the result looked a bit soupy and brown, its appearance betrayed the wonderful, comforting flavor.

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