Cooking Week #4: East Indian Curry w/ Red Lentils

Mike got a new cookbook, and was eager to try out some of the recipes.  We decided to do a vegetarian dish, along with two appetizers.  This time around the cooking fest took place at the Donnelly’s.  Although we did our best, Mike and I weren’t quite able to make a complete success of it – we didn’t manage to dirty every single pot and pan in the house.  However, the end results were excellent!  Read on for a blow-by-blow description…

We started off the cooking with two appetizers.  Mine actually didn’t require much cooking, merely assembly.  Mike’s was a bit more complicated – a Roasted Sweet Pepper, Walnut and Pomegranate Spread.  As it was a bit more complicated, he’d already begun preparing it before we arrived.  I’ll leave details of that dish to Mike.  I tackled the Green Olive Tapenade.  After sauteing some garlic in olive oil, I put it into a food processor with pitted green olives, parsley, red onion, some lemon juice and some ground pepper.  I processed it until it was finely chopped, but still had some texture.  After transferring the olive mixture to a bowl, I pureed half a block of firm tofu until it was very smooth, and folded this into the olive mixture.  The end result was a thick, creamy tapenade.

The main course, East Indian Curry with Red Lentils, required a lot of chopping.  I set the lentils to simmering while Mike chopped up onions and squash.  We also diced up red peppers, carrots, cauliflower, and snap peas.  While Mike was sauteing the onions in some olive oil, I pulled the lentils from the heat, and we set up some white rice in a separate pot on the stove.  Mike added the peppers, carrots, crushed tomatoes, and some veggie stock to the onions, and simmered for about ten minutes.  The red curry paste was mixed with some coconut milk and added to the vegetables.  I tossed in the sugar snap peas and the cauliflower.  Everything simmered until the cauliflower was tender, then in went the lentils.  In the last few minutes I added the rest of the tofu, diced up, that was left over from the tapenade.

We served the curry over the rice, and the meal came together very nicely.  Everything was cooked about right, although in retrospect the lentils were perhaps a bit too limp – I’d cut back on the cooking time for the lentils by about a third next time. Also, the rice was slightly wetter than I prefer, but that was hidden by the liquid from the curry.  The spice level was good – hot enough to be noticeable, but not so hot as to be intrusive.  The tofu was a nice addition; I’m glad we had firm tofu, as anything softer would have disintegrated.  This is more of a Fall/Winter dish, but it tasted just fine even in mid-Spring!

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