Trader Joe’s rocks my world. Now, maybe if I lived near one it wouldn’t be as thrilling to walk through those automatic doors (and heck, it looks like someday soon we’ll have one on 14th Street, right on the L line) but for now, every time we hit one my shopping cart becomes a mini Death Star, with a magnetic pull so great no simmer sauce, condiment, or (reasonably low-fat) sweet can resist it. Our friend Tim over at Totally Joyous Recipes/Food Talk actually works for TJ’s (Get it: Totally Joyous=Trader Joe’s), creating recipes using their products—talk about a dream job!
This weekend S and I visited the one in Marlton, New Jersey, walking out $92 poorer but so much richer in the interesting-pantry-items department. Along with the Habanero-Lime salsa, Korean Bulgogi sauce, and peanut butter-filled pretzels, our treasure trove contained a package of black lentils. Smaller and rounder than their brown cousins, they winked at me from their plastic baggie, promising exotic, earthy flavors and, let’s admit it, tons of fiber.
Course, once I got home I realized I didn’t exactly know what to do with them. The recipe inside the package was for black lentils and sausage, and we’re not too big on the links, so I hit the Internets and started looking for ideas. I didn’t find much, to be honest, and was thinking I’d have to completely wing it—and then I hit on this recipe from Cooking with Amy. The perfect jumping-off point! As I’m wont to do, I toyed, I changed, I tweaked the lentils’ beady black noses, and came up with a fabulously rich (though shockingly healthy), seductively creamy, and deeply flavorful stew. It’s two days later and we’re still loving the leftovers, astonished that something so humble could yield something so sexy—and in under an hour!
Black Lentil Stew
Adapted from Cooking with Amy
1 ½ cups black lentils
½ T. oil
1 small onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced small
2 small or 1 large carrot, peeled and diced small
2 ribs celery, diced small
1 T. garam masala
1 T. cumin
½ T. ground ginger
¼ t. cayenne
1 can chicken broth (optional)
4 ½ cups water (if not using broth, increase to 6 cups)
salt to taste
Sort and rinse lentils and set aside.
Heat the oil over low-medium heat in a large pot or dutch oven (I used Medium Blue). Add the onion and garlic and sauté until nearly translucent, about five minutes. Add the sweet potato, carrot, and celery, and sprinkle spices over all. Cook a few moments, until the kitchen fills with an intoxicating scent of curry and the vegetables begin to soften, four or five more minutes Add the lentils.
Pour in the broth (if using) and the water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, covered, for 20-30 minutes, until lentils are cooked through but still have a hint of bite—add salt about five minutes before the end. Serve over couscous or brown rice.
NOTE: This will thicken as it sits, so you may need to add a little more water or broth when reheating.