red lentil yellow miso orange mash curry

inspired by 6/99 Gourmet; heavily adapted 3/02 nh

  • 1 small onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • as much fresh ginger as you can stand to grate
  • 1 C red lentils (don't use regular; they won't mush right)
  • 3 or so C water
  • 3 or 4 T olive or veggie oil, or sesame might work really well here
  • 1/2 lb. firm tofu
  • 1/2 t cumin seeds
  • 1 t curry powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • as much cayenne as you can stand before screaming "fire"
  • 2 T yellow miso, purchased from your nearest Chinatown
  • rice

Put the rice on to cook. Thinly slice onion and put your garlic through a garlic press, if you have one. Peel ginger and grate. In a sieve, rinse lentils and drain. Cook onion and garlic in 2 T oil over moderate heat, stirring, until beginning to be transparent. Add ginger and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add lentils and water (start with 2 C, or just enough to cover the lentils, and don't add much more than they absorb to get mushy -- you don't want it runny) and gently boil, uncovered, until lentils fall apart, about 20 minutes. Don't put this on high heat and just walk away from it; it will burn. Trust me.

While lentils are boiling, cut tofu into 1/2-inch cubes and gently press between paper towels to remove excess moisture. This should really have something else done to it here -- fried? Marinated in tamari and orange juice or something else exciting? But itself it's okay, but verging on bland.

In a small heavy skillet heat remaining tablespoon oil over lowish heat until hot but not smoking and cook cumin seeds, stirring, until a shade darker, about 1 minute. Don't let the little fuckers burn. Add other spices and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 15 to 30 seconds. You might try putting the miso in here, because if you add it to the whole shebang after you've mixed the lentils and the oil together, you might not get it blended properly if you don't stir enough. So, put the miso in here, and combine it with the oil. Stir hot spice oil into lentils and gently stir in tofu cubes. Let curry stand, covered, 5 minutes to allow flavors to develop. Stir in cilantro (might be a good idea; I didn't have any on hand) and salt to taste.

Serve curry over rice.