I wish I could meet Jack Bishop. His cookbook is one of my absolute favorites: A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen. In the beginning of the book, Bishop paints a lovely image of life at his house, where he lovingly prepares meals for his wife and two kids with fresh fruits, veggies, and whole foods. At least where food is concerned, I believe he and I have a lot in common. In the words of Jack Bishop, “Cooking is a time for me to relax and to focus on something other than work, the unpaid bills in my desk drawer, the over grown weed patch otherwise known as our back yard, or the pile of laundry upstairs in the hamper.”
I too find cooking relaxing, and I love sharing food with others. This dish in particular is great for huddling around the table or near the fire on cold winter nights. It also makes for wonderful leftovers, so preparing a batch at the beginning of the week will provide nutritious and satisfying lunches for several days. It’s not a fancy dish, but its flavors are nonetheless complex.
To borrow from Jack Bishop again, “The food doesn’t have to be fancy – and mine surely isn’t. As long as it’s produced honestly and tastes good, food is cause for celebration, every day of the year.”
Curried Red Lentils & Caramelized Onions with Basmati Rice
for the onions
2 Tbsp regular unsalted or vegan butter
3 Medium onions (white or sweet), halved & thinly sliced
1/2 Tsp salt
1/2 Tsp sugar
for the curried lentil
2 Tbsp canola, olive, or coconut oil
4 Medium garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp minced gingerroot
2 Tsp curry powder
1/2 Tsp smoked paprika (optional)
1/2 Tsp ground cumin (optional)
3 1/2 Cup water
1 14oz Can unsweetened coconut milk, divided
1 1/2 Cup dried red lentils, rinsed and picked over to remove any stones
1/4 Cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
for the basmati rice
1 1/2 Cup basmati rice
2 Tbsp unsalted butter or canola oil
1 1/2 Cup water
1 Tsp salt
1) Begin by preparing the caramelized onions: Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, salt, and sugar, then cook, stirring occasionally, until onions soften and begin to color slightly (about 5 minutes). Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are tender and nicely browned 9about 15 minutes). NOTE: Turn down the heat if onions start to burn.
2) While onions are sautéing, prepare the lentils: In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the garlic, ginger, curry powder, and sweet paprika/cumin (if using). Cook, stirring often, until fragrant (about 1 minute). Add the water, 1 Cup of the coconut milk, lentils and 1/2 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer, stirring once or twice, until the lentils have fallen apart (15 to 20 minutes).
3) Uncover, raise the heat, and simmer until the lentils thicken a bit (they will be loose but not liquidy), about 5 minutes. Stir in the cilantro, adjust seasonings, add salt to taste.
4) While lentils are simmering, prepare the basmati rice: Place rice in a medium bowl and fill with cold water. Swish rice around with your fingers then carefully drain the water. Repeat 4 or 5 more times until the water is no longer cloudy. Set rice aside.
5) Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until rice smells toasted but has not colored (about 3 minutes). Add the water, remaining coconut milk (about 3/4 cup) and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook (without opening the lid) until all of the liquid has been absorbed (about 10 minutes).
6) Remove the pot from the heat and let rice sit, covered, for 10 more minutes to finish cooking. Fluff rice with a fork and serve in individual bowls topped with curried lentils and caramelized onions. Garnish with additional chopped cilantro, if desired.