Looking through my blog posts I realized that almost everything I've posted so far has been baked goods (everything but one, measly soup recipe without a picture because I hand lost my camera). This is in part because I absolutely love baking. Oh, whipping up dinner can be fun too but there is nothing quite like the feel of soft dough between my fingers, or the smell of bread in the oven, or the taste of a chocolate chip cookie eaten off of a hot baking sheet. Even so, this doesn't mean that I don't cook. On the contrary, I cook myself dinner just about every night. The reason I haven't posted anything about it however is that, to be honest, my dinners are usually pretty boring. When I go home for breaks I'll often experiment with more complicated recipes but here in Berkeley, in my massive, out of control kitchen, on a school night, dinner has just three specifications that it has to meet.
a. It has to be healthy
b. It has to taste good
c. It has to come together with no more that 1 hour spent in the kitchen, total, that includes chopping, peeling, slicing, dicing and anything else I might have to do for prep.
Usually dinner ends up being a one pot meal, full of flavor and utterly lacking in eye appeal or method of preparation. Now, a very common one-pot meal for me is lentil soup (my staple recipe is Heidi Swanson's over 101 cookbooks). It's a nutritional powerhouse. You can mix any number of things into it, put any number of toppings on top of it, and spice it up any way you like. Best of all, it usually comes together in all of 20 minutes and it's a pretty hard dish to ruin. The flip side to that is, it's also a pretty hard dish to make exciting.
That is until (drum roll please)... I discovered this recipe. This was lentil soup as I'd never seen it before and to be entirely honest, I was a bit suspicious. The ingredients didn't quite seem as though they'd go together all that well. But the author's praise was so enthusiastic and the pictures so warm and delicious looking on this very cold day that, despite my doubts, I decided to try it out, with some alterations of course. I am very glad I did. This is my ideal one pot meal. Spicy from the jalapeno and curry paste, sweet from the sweet potato, sour from the lime, and earthy from the lentils. I adapted my creation quite a bit from the original recipe and so I'm presenting my version here.
Thai Curry Lentil Stew
oil for sauteing
3 large cloves garlic
1 yellow onion-minced
1 1/2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1 fresh jalapeno finely chopped (seeds left in if you like spice, or if you're weird like me, de-seed half of it)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup dried lentils (I used french lentils and would recommend you do to as they cook quickly and maintain their shape)
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch dice
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes (juice included)
2 cups water
1/2 cup minced cilantro (you can use parsley if you absolutely hate cilantro, or you can just leave it out entirely)
juice from 1/2 of a lime
yogurt, additional lime, and/or cilantro sprigs for topping (optional)
Heat a large pot on medium heat. Saute the garlic, onion, curry paste, ginger, jalapeno and salt until onions become translucent. Add lentils, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and water. Cover and simmer over medium head 20 to 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender and the sweet potatoes are soft. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro and lime juice. Serve with additional lime juice, cilantro, and yogurt as desired.