Curried Lentils and Sweet Potatoes

by Susan on November 30, 2011

I need to cook with Indian spices more often. The smell that fills the apartment is warm and inviting. The food follows suit.

When I set out in search of a lentil recipe a couple of weeks ago, it wasn’t an unseasonable balmy 60 degrees. For whatever reason, curried lentils scream autumn and winter a lot louder than spring or summer, and I wanted something hearty and wholesome. Something flavorful, but not too spicy. The moment I saw this recipe I had eyes for no other.

Sweet potatoes. Swiss Chard. Cumin. You had me at . . . well, frankly all of it.

The original recipe suggests cooking the potatoes with the lentils from the get-go, but this rendered them too mushy and made stirring the dish difficult while trying to keep the potato cubes intact. I’ve adjusted for that in my adaptation below.

I urge you to try the dish before you add the lime, or maybe set some un-limed lentils aside, to do a little taste test. Citrus and acid are never a bad thing, but with this dish I wondered if it didn’t overpower the subtly of the spices.

When it turns to winter, and trust me it will, give this recipe a try.

Curried Lentils With Sweet Potatoes and Swiss Chard
Adapted from The New York Times

Makes 4-5 side-dish servings

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1-inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and grated
3/4 teaspoon garam masala
3/4 teaspoon curry powder
up to 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded if desired, then minced (depending on desired spice level)
2 to 3 cups vegetable broth as needed
1 pound orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into
1/2-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
3/4 cups dried lentils (I used French lentils)
1 bay leaf
1 head Swiss chard, center ribs removed, leaves thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Finely grated zest of 1/2 lime
Juice of 1/4 lime

1. In large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute until translucent. Add garlic, ginger, garam masala, curry powder and jalapeno. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

2. Stir in 2 cups broth, lentils and bay leaf. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium, partially cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.

3. Add sweet potatoes and simmer for another 10-15 minutes. (If lentils seem dry, add up to 1 cup stock, as needed.) Stir in chard and salt and pepper, and continue cooking until lentils and potatoes are tender and chard is cooked.

3. Just before serving, stir in lime zest and juice.

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Spinach and Chickpeas

by Susan on October 23, 2011

Every meal deserves a side of greens, whether it be a simple arugula salad or something more complex, like this dish (which I make with kale so often these days, it’s almost embarrassing). Greens supply crunch and acid. They complement any protein  – whether it be pork, beef, fish, or poultry. No matter how much you amp them up with flavor – sweet, spicy, smoky, salty – they never overpower anything else on the plate. And, they don’t need a lot of fatty ingredients to be rich and decadent. Their only downside? They get stuck in your teeth.

I am always on the search for new green-centric dishes and when I stumbled across this Spanish-inspired one on Smitten, I literally had to make it that night. It checked all my boxes: healthy and easy with a respectable list of spices.

It’s really, really good. It’s hearty and packed with the warmth of smoked paprika and cumin. It’s exotic enough to interest those who aren’t normally tempted by greens and delicious enough to impress anyone who can’t get enough of them. It’s a keeper.

Spinach and Chickpeas
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Note: I might top this with a handful of homemade breadcrumbs and also consider serving it as a appetizer on bread toasts.

1 15-ounce can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 tablespoon olive oil
12 oz – 1 lb spinach, washed
1/2 – 3/4 cup tomato sauce
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (I used hot)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lemon juice, to taste

Place a large saucepan over medium heat 2 tablespoons the olive oil. When it is hot, add the spinach with a pinch of salt (in batches, if necessary) and stir well. Remove when the leaves are just tender, drain in a colander and set aside.

Heat 2 more tablespoons olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Cook chickpeas, tomato sauce, paprika, garlic, cumin and pepper. Stir until the chickpeas have absorbed the flavors and are hot. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the spinach and cook until it is hot. Check for seasoning, squeeze in some lemon juice, and serve as a side or as an appetizer on bread toasts.

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