Thursday, November 12, 2009

Lentil and Squash Curry

Last week I joined the millions of Americans who are unemployed. I wasn't exactly expecting to get laid off so after the initial shock, The Chef and I tried to come up with a plan as to how we can prevent ourselves from becoming hobos who live under a bridge and eat beans out of a can.

Admittedly, I tend to sort of buy whatever I want at the grocery store. It's so tempting to grab a wedge of creamy blue cheese, some fancy Spanish crackers sprinkled with sugar and anise seeds, or a grass-fed steak to grill. These luxuries are nice, certainly, but they don't determine whether I am able to put together a good meal or not. Being frugal has caused me to be inventive, resourceful, and to not overlook everything I already have in the freezer, fridge and pantry.

Feeling like contestants on Top Chef, we have been knocking out meals all week that solely use ingredients we already had on hand. The Chef threw together a delicious pork, mushroom and potato stew that we served over brown rice. He made his famous Salty Butterscotch Pudding for dessert (a future blog post, I promise). And I whipped up this delicious curry that is a definite keeper. I had a similar curry at a restaurant recently and tried to recreate those flavors here.

One thing to be aware of - curry powders can vary like crazy. I used a sweet curry powder and started with 1 tablespoon. I kept adding more, eventually ending up using 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons.

For 4-6 servings:
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cups cubed butternut squash
  • 1-15 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup brown lentils, rinsed and picked over
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons curry powder (or, to taste)
  • 4 ounces frozen chopped spinach

Heat the oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the squash and stir to coat with the oil, cooking for about 3 minutes. Raise the heat to medium-high. Add the tomatoes, coconut milk, water, lentils, salt, red pepper flakes, and 1-2 tablespoons of the curry powder.

Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes. The curry should be thick. Taste it and add more salt and curry powder if needed. Stir in the spinach and simmer the curry for about 10 minutes more. Serve with warm whole wheat pita bread.

This curry freezes well. Once cool, ladle the curry into a freezer bag, carefully pressing out any air, and store in the freezer.


alita said...

yum! we've created some great 'clean out the pantry meals' - they are my most creative by far, but there is good stuff hiding in the back of there! and - that new camera is AMAZING! Hang in there, lady - I have a feeling great things are ahead for you!

kickpleat said...

Maybe because I grew up poor or maybe it's because I work for myself, but I'm not one to give in to luxuries. I always scrimp and save, it's in my nature. You can totally make great, amazing meals without spending a lot. As for the job front, you'll be fine, I'm sure.

Hilary said...

Really sorry to hear that. Tt's a tough time for a lot of people, isn't it? I hope it doesn't last long.

In the meantime I'm sure you can have fun cooking on a budget - by the time pay day rolls around I've usually been knocking up this sort of cheap and cheerful vegetarian fare for a week! It's definitely no less tasty - your curry looks sensational!

Unknown said...

I'm totally making this tonight.

de panamá said...

I totally did make this today. My daughter came up behind me while I was looking at the picture and said "yummm", so that decided it. It was really, really delish. Thanks!