Monday, October 4, 2010

Monday Soup: Curried Lentil Stew with Kale, Red Onion and Coconut Milk

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).


kat said...

I always end up reading your posts in the morning, which means that I often end up fantasizing about dinnertime before I've even had coffee. And this will be happening in our house this week, it has to.

Kelly said...

Gorgeous. Your writing on this post is especially lovely my dear. I love tinkering with soup this time of year. I find it so forgiving as a recipe type and there is something so comforting and fun about dropping things into the pot. I made tomato soup last night and found it sooooo relaxing.

Bree said...

I went to Mana for the very first time Saturday night. I never thought I'd say this (can't believe I'm typing it) but the red cabbage slaw was my favorite thing that night. And I had two cheese dishes!

TKTC said...

Kat- I want to be in your kitchen sharing soup with you and Hurlz. Maybe some grilled cheese too. You are also welcome in my kitchen. Either way.

Kelly- Thanks lady, I've been reading my new book:) And yes- soup is incredibly forgiving and absorbent of all the lovely bits leftover from other meals.

Bree- I hope you also tried the mushroom sliders because they are phenomenal and then some. The blue cheese tart is pretty damn good too though (was that one of your cheese dishes?).

Yvonne said...

Gonna add coconut milk next time I make this soup base. You liked that flavor in it??

TKTC said...

Yvonne- What ended up as a full stockpot of soup (3/4 gallon if I were the betting type), only about 1/2 cup of it was coconut milk. STILL it added a subtle richness to the broth and a nice, warm flavor. Loved it.