I've just now had the exquisite experience of craving something comprehensively wonderful and then being able to realize the bowled vision in my own kitchen.
I cook a lot. I like it. It's like meditating without the the mat that smells like plastic and feet. And still- this is exhilerating. I've never made this recipe before and yet on the first attempt I'm content. That does not happen at my house. I may be satiated, even happy, but rarely am I content. Happy is a fleeting high, content means I want to stop moving for more than a string of minutes.
It started a few weeks ago when I picked up take-out from Mana before babysitting. I think I've mentioned it before but 2.5 years since it opened, that place still blisses me out. Having fresh, inventive vegetarian food a 5 minute walk from my door has not ceased to be a treat. Anyhow, on the night in question, the special was a lentil soup. I can't say I was immediately wooed but figured I was due for something healthy to temper my standing order of collard greens and polenta.
I slurped that first spoonful and then did not take more than a few sparse breaths from brim to bottom of my borrowed bowl. Sweet and spiced and warm and textured- I've been thinking about it ever since but today the longing was so powerful that I called them. I called Mana. The first thing I asked was whether they'd be serving my magical soup this week.
Yes, I'll hold.
A new voice on the line- Jill Barron, the chef. She does not schedule her specials but she's glad I like the soup and incidentally which lentil soup did I like so much?
Quiet on the line.
Then I tried to describe the flavors. It was confirmed to be Curried Red Lentil soup. I may have then started shamelessly guessing ingredients. Palpable desperation over soup. She, rightly, refused and said to keep checking back.
I stewed (pun intended).
I had lentils.
I had a huge pot of homemade chicken stock taking up refrigerator real estate (one equal to its size had already been frozen).
I had a large red onion. And garlic. And carrots from my CSA box
I had gorgeous bunches of dinosaur kale.
I had curry and cayenne.
I had soup.
A quick audit of Google Reader directed me to this recipe on Epicurious. Well, my $.89 pound of lentils were green, not red. And I had kale in lieu of chard. Then I saw a few other recipes. Some folks were putting coconut milk into their versions. I nosed around and found a little can picked up on a whim on Argyle.
As soup is another tremendous vehicle for the stuff I love so dearly, I also took stock of a rogue purple potato and the last of my cherry tomatoes. In the back of the fridge I found a jar of Chile Colonial Chile Crunch (oh condiment of kings) and a lone Greek yogurt.
What do they say? Pride comes before the fall. Duly noted. Now seconds please.
Curried Lentil Stew with Kale, Red Onion and Coconut Milk
Makes 6-8 servings
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
3 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
1 purple potato, diced (totally optional but very pretty)
4 teaspoons curry powder
1/3 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or Aleppo pepper if you have it)
5 1/2 cups of broth (I had fresh chicken broth but vegetable would work as well and makes this purely vegetarian)
5.6 oz can of coconut milk (about the size of a can of tomato paste)
1 large bunch or 2 small bunches dinosaur kale, leaves pulled from ribs
1 pound green lentils (about 2 1/4 cups)
1/3 cup bulgur wheat
Sea Salt to taste
6-8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 1/2 Tablespoons Greek yogurt
Chile Colonial Crunch (I'd knock it off with the namedropping but I can't think of a generic category that describes the stuff)
Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrots, potato and garlic; sauté until golden, about 15 minutes. Mix in curry and cayenne. Add broth, kale and coconut milk. Stir to incorporate. Increase heat; bring to boil. Add lentils and bulgur; reduce heat to medium.
Cover; simmer until lentils are tender, stirring twice, about 15 minutes. Add the cherry tomatoes during the final stir. Season to taste. Divide stew among bowls. Top with yogurt and a proper dollop of chile crunch (it's hot, so go easy at first).