I have never met a lentil I didn’t like. They’re a gentle and friendly little legume. You don’t have to presoak them, and they’re generally simpatico with my way of being. In looking for unusual and creative ways to prepare them, I happened across this recipe from the awesomely named Veganomicon. One of the authors of Veganomicon is the author of a cookbook I’ve blogged about before: Salad Samurai. Check out more Terry Hope Romero recipes I’ve tried here and here!
What’s tamarind? Why ask me when you can ask the Huffington Post? OK, well, if you *were* to ask me, I’d say: It is a magical brown goo that you can purchase at Whole Foods in a jar. Thank goodness because I had previously only seen it in a vacuum pack as a kind of scary brown brick in the Asian market . But now! Be thankful that it now comes in a jar, and you needn’t pound these pods or extract the magic goo yourself, or break off a chunk of the mysterious brick. You can just scoop it out! With kind of a honey-like consistency. Anyway, this magical brown goo comes from pods of the tamarind tree. It is sweet and tart and sour, and frequently used in Indian and Southeast Asian dishes. A jar stays good for a looong time so don’t be scared. Just try it.
- 3 T. coconut or peanut oil (I used coconut)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
- ½ inch cube fresh ginger, peeled and minced (NOTE: I used WAY more than this but that is because my ginger was elderly, which makes it less strong. Use your discretion. I happen to LOVE ginger so I probably used about ¼ c. of elderly ginger! You know to peel it with a spoon, right?)
- 1 large onion (I used yellow), diced
- 1 tsp. garam masala
- ½ tsp. whole cumin seeds
- Generous pinch of ground cayenne OR chipotle (adds a touch of smokiness)
- 1 c. dried lentils, picked over and rinsed
- 2 c. vegetable broth or water
- 2 tsp. concentrated tamarind syrup or paste
- 1 T. maple syrup or agave nectar (I used agave)
- 2 T. tomato paste
- ½ tsp. salt
- Sauté your aromatics: In your medium pot with lid (use a heavy one if you have it; I used my Staub cocotte) melt the coconut or peanut oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger, and let it sizzle for 30 seconds (it will smell really goooood.) Add the onion and cook until translucent, soft, and starting to brown (original recipe says 2-3 minutes, but I let it go longer, because I wanted to caramelize a little, say 5-7 minutes).
- Bloom your spices: Stir in the garam masala, cumin seeds, and cumin or chipotle, and stir for another 30 seconds or until spices smell fragrant (but not burned). Add the veggie broth and lentils; increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Partially cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes, until the lentils are tender and have absorbed most of the liquid. They will be thick, so add a bit more veggie broth towards the end of cooking if you like.
- Prepare your flavor boost: While this lentilly magic is happening, in a small bowl, stir together the tamarind, maple syrup or agave, tomato paste, and salt. Once the lentils are done, scrape all the yumminess into the lentils with a rubber spatula. Simmer for another 4-6 minutes, or until the flavor is absorbed; this is a great time to bust out your tasting spoon! Adjust salt if needed, and serve. I served with rice, but with leftovers, I made wraps with hummus, spinach, and lentils. YUM.