Conjuring the exotic flavors of India on a cold, foggy January day
Each new year I find myself reminiscing those bone-chilling January days in the Midwest and Colorado when I anxiously kicked off my snow covered boots, dropped my backpack on the mudroom floor, and stripped the gloves from my numb fingers after trekking home from school, all-the-while anticipating those ambrosial aromas of steamy, savory comfort food and freshly baked bread wafting from my mom’s warm, inviting kitchen. God, that was nirvana! Fast forward to 2015 … it’s barely mid-month and I’ve already braised, sautéed and simmered … “kitchen-sink” chicken/vegetable soup, turkey and white bean chili, spicy tortilla soup, a robust beef chili and a duo of chicken enchiladas and beef enchiladas that would knock your socks off! But without a doubt, the new favorite in my home is an explosion of flavors the likes of spicy curry, sweet ginger, savory cilantro and tangy lemon that I recently concocted while adapting a recipe of Red Lentil-Curry Soup I discovered on epicurious.com. This incredibly easy-to-make “meal in a pot” takes a mere 20-25 minutes of prep time and another hour or so for simmering. So fire up the stove, my cooking friends, and take your family on an aromatic escape via the exotic flavors of southeast Asia …
Red Lentil-Curry Soup
Yield: serves 6-8 as a main course
(Adapted from a Gourmet Magazine (Feb. 2009 issue) recipe by Ruth Cousineau)
- 5 links of sweet sausage, casings removed
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 sweet potatoes (preferably white), peeled and diced into 1/2″ pieces
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 celery ribs, chopped
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and minced
- 1 jalalpeño pepper, seeded and minced
- 1 cup chopped kale
- 1 tablespoon Madras curry powder (spicier and smokier than regular curry powder)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1-1/2 cups red lentils, picked over and rinsed
- 2 quarts low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 quarts vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- zest of one lemon
- Cilantro-Jalapeño Pesto (recipe below) and naan bread for serving
Cut the sausages into 1″ pieces, and sauté in a large skillet over medium heat, turning frequently, until cooked through. Remove sausage pieces to a shallow dish lined with paper towels to drain thoroughly.
Warm the vegetable oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the sweet potatoes, onion, carrots and celery and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to soften, about 15 minutes.
Stir in the garlic, jalapeño, ginger and kale and cook an additional five minutes. Add the curry powder, salt and pepper and cook for 2-3 minutes more, stirring often.
Reduce the heat to low. Stir in the rinsed lentils, sausage, and the chicken and vegetable broths, Cover the soup and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 30-45 minutes. Add the lemon juice, lemon zest and taste for seasonings.
After covering your soup to simmer and whipping up that batch of cilantro pesto, feel free to pour yourself a glass of wine (unless, sadly, it’s your day for commandeering the school carpool.) Put your feet up, turn on the tv, and catch today’s episode of the Ellen Show. It’s a well-earned treat, my cooking confidant!
Spread Cilantro-Jalapeño Pesto onto naan bread and heat under a broiler for a few minutes until pesto is beginning to bubble and the bread is warmed. Cut the bread into large slices and serve with the Red Lentil-Curry Soup. Now sit back, enjoy your creation, and watch your family and/or guests eat till they’re completely stuffed. It’s highly doubtful that you’ll be refrigerating any leftovers from this meal!
- 1 bunch of cilantro leaves, rinsed, dried and removed from larger stems
- 2-3 large garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup pistachios (walnuts or almonds can also be used)
- 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1/3 cup parmesan cheese (I actually prefer asiago cheese because of it’s more robust flavor)
- 1/3 cup olive oil + more if needed
- dash of salt and pepper
Combine all ingredients in a mini food processor or blender and chop/grind until well blended. If pesto seems too “dry”, drizzle a little more olive oil in until you achieve the desired consistency. Freeze any remaining pesto for later use. (NOTE: If using salted pistachios or nuts in your pesto, forego adding salt.)