Have you ever been to the bulk bins aisle at Whole Foods? I am pretty sure I could stand there for hours, mesmerized by all of the different grains, beans, flours, seeds, nuts, dried fruit, dried soup mixes, and other random things they have stored in the plastic bins. Whenever I make a trip to Whole Foods, I usually stand at the bins for about 5 minutes, panic, and then run away feeling overwhelmed and clueless about what to get. Sometimes though, when I’m feeling spontaneous, I dig right in and pick up a few things without a clue of what to do with them (I know, I’m SO crazy!). Case in point: red lentils. I just so happened to spot them on a day that I was feeling particularly spontaneous. Unlike the dull brown grains and beans, red lentils are a pretty bright orange-red color, which caught my eye and intrigued my curiosity. I didn’t know what I was going to do with them, but I dug right in and brought me home some red lentils.
After few weeks of sitting in my cupboard, I finally decided what I was going to do with my red lentils: make curry! This was my first time making curry, so my expectations weren’t that high. I thought that curry is the type of dish that takes time, experience, and hard work to tweak and make perfect. Well, not to toot my own horn or anything, but this was some dang good curry! Maybe not perfect by a curry-connoisseur’s definition, but it exceeded my expectations by far.
I loved the texture of the lentils and tomatoes combined with the pan-fried tofu, and the dish as a whole was bursting with that great curry flavor. The great thing about the red lentils, as opposed to green lentils, is that they cook up much faster, which makes this a quick weeknight meal. I ate the curry over some brown rice, but it would also be delicious with naan (Indian bread).
Red Lentil and Tofu Curry
1 white onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
3 1/2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can stewed tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped
1 cup red lentils
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
1-2 tbsp curry powder
2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp coriander
1 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 block firm tofu, pressed and cubed
fresh cilantro, for garnish
In large saucepan, heat 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and red pepper, and saute until onions and peppers start to soften, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add tomatoes and stir to combine, followed by the lentils, chicken broth, and water. Add curry powder, garam masala, coriander, and salt, and stir to combine. Let it come to a soft boil, and let simmer about 20 minutes, or until the lentils have soaked up the broth and water.
Meanwhile, in medium saucepan, heat remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium-high heat and add cubed tofu. Cook until lightly browned on most sides, about 10 minutes. When lentil mixture is done cooking, add tofu to the mixture and toss to combine.
Serve over rice or with bread.