Though I hate to admit this, I am a little frightened of cooking lentils. Sure, they look harmless enough, but they just have a tendency of not cooking for me. Instead, they remain little pebbles in the saucepan far past the recommend cooking time. But red lentils are the great exception. They only require 15 to 20 minutes to become tender, and they faithfully stick to that schedule.
Their quick cooking nature is put to great use in this amazing vegetarian recipe from Appetite for China. Actually, this recipe is originally based on a Gourmet recipe, but I prefer this interpretation because it doubles the amount of spices. Honestly, the dish is still a little mild, but sometimes you just want a soothing, comforting meal, not something that will clear my sinuses with each spoonful.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- ½-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
- ½ cup red lentils, rinsed and drained
- 3 cups water
- ½ pound firm tofu, cut into ½-inch cubes
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped
Pour one tablespoon of the olive oil into a medium-sized saucepan set over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent and soft, about five minutes. Toss in ginger and cook until fragrant, about one minute. Then add lentils and the water. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low, and simmer until the lentils are soft, 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, dry tofu cubes on some paper towels. Place a large wok over medium heat. Add the cumin and cook until very fragrant, about one minute. Transfer to a bowl.
Pour the remaining one tablespoon of olive oil into the wok. When shimmering, add the tofu cubes. Stir-fry until lightly browned on most sides, about four minutes. Add the curry powder, cayenne pepper, and salt. Cook until very fragrant, one to two minutes, and then transfer contents to saucepan with lentils.
Let the lentils and tofu cook over medium heat for five minutes. Serve curry with rice and garnish with cilantro.