it’s official: rhubarb and lentil curry is my favorite new recipe. i’ve made it twice in the past two weeks and have no intention of slowing down. it’s delicious and super easy. and those are my summer dinner criteria in a nutshell.
what i particularly like about this rhubarb and lentil curry, besides how easy it is, is that the rhubarb provides the perfect tangy/sour flavor that you find in many indian dishes, at least when they are done well. and in my experience playing around with channa masala (my indian takeout staple that i’m still tinkering with in my own kitchen), that tangy/sour flavor is difficult to replicate at home with ingredients commonly found in american grocery stores.
…unless you use rhubarb! rhubarb, plus ginger and a few spices, perfectly flavors this dish and – bonus, since i was just complaining about rhubarb’s texture when raw – the rhubarb completely breaks down into the lentils (which also break down, if you use red ones), so the whole thing turns into a smooth-ish curry.
ooh! i didn’t try this but i’m having an idea as i’m writing this that you could pour the whole thing (minus the whole spices/chili) into a blender with just a little bit of water and have the most amazing soup. now i know what i’m having for lunch next week…
but back to the curry version that i served over rice. it’s yummy. the tangy flavor is unique without being overwhelming. rhubarb + ginger + cardamom is one of my new favorite flavor triads. and this recipe is easy and fast. i have to start the rice first when i make this so that the lentils don’t have to wait too long for the rice to be done – and my rice only takes 20 minutes! which is why this rhubarb and lentil curry will be on repeat for as long as i can get rhubarb at the market…
speaking of rhubarb, if you’re looking for more rhubarb recipes, check out:
- 1 cup (198 g. / 7 oz.) uncooked rice
- 1 cup (198 g. / 7 oz.) red lentils, picked over for pebbles
- 3 or 4 stalks rhubarb, chopped into ¼ - ½” (0.6 – 1.25 cm) size pieces
- 2 teaspoons neutral flavored oil
- 1 tablespoon brown mustard seeds
- 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, finely grated, see notes
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 4 cardamom pods, see notes
- 2 whole cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 1 whole dried red chili, optional
- 1 cup (113 g. / 4 oz.) roasted unsalted cashews, roughly chopped, for serving
- chopped fresh cilantro, for serving
- cook the rice according to package directions.
- combine lentils and rhubarb in a saucepan and add water to cover by slightly less than 1” (2.5 cm). cover and simmer until lentils and rhubarb are softened, 10 – 20 minutes (check lentil package for guidance on timing but mostly go by tasting once the lentils start to soften). if there is a lot of extra water left once the lentils and rhubarb are softened, you may wish to drain them, but i didn’t bother, i just left the lid off for the last minute or two of cooking and gave the mixture a good stir.
- while the lentils and rhubarb are cooking, heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. once hot, add the mustard seeds. use caution once the mustard seeds start to pop as they like to leap out of the pan; a splatter screen helps contain them. let the mustard seeds pop for about 30 seconds, then add the ginger, garlic, cardamom, cloves, pepper, and chili. stir constantly and sauté this mixture for 1 minute, until the ginger and garlic are fragrant. remove from heat. carefully remove the cloves and, if you like, the chili pepper (i leave it in the leftovers and serve around it).
- add the spice mixture to the cooked lentils and rhubarb and stir thoroughly to incorporate to the spices. serve the rhubarb and lentil curry over the rice, garnished with the cashews and cilantro. serve hot. leftovers keep and reheat well.
i tried mincing the ginger with a knife and just couldn’t get it small enough to avoid biting down on little (but potent!) chunks of ginger. to grate it easily peel the ginger (my oxo peeler is sharp enough to accomplish this), put it in an airtight container, and store it in the freezer. grating frozen ginger on a microplane zester is much easier than grating non-frozen ginger on the small holes of a box grater. when measuring out the frozen, freshly grated ginger, be sure to pack it into the measuring spoon, as it tends to be quite fluffy and you don’t want to under measure it.
for the cardamom, crack the green pod open, remove the little black seeds on the inside, and just use the seeds. if you don’t want some bites of rhubarb and lentil curry to have lots of cardamom flavor, gently crush the black seeds before adding them to the curry. alternatively, you could just use ground cardamom (about ¼ teaspoon).
adapted from mark bittman’s lentil and rhubarb stew with indian spices, which ran in the ny times, with special thanks to vikrim’s comment.
what else we’re eating:
i *may* have gone on a wee bit of a kale spree at the farmers’ market recently. to wit, *one* of the kale-centric recipes we’re having for dinner this week is love and lemons’ creamy vegan shiitake kale pasta. it was delicious. also, i changed a few things: i used baby bella mushrooms instead of shiitake, because shiitake mushrooms are expensive and the ones at the store looked terrible. i also swapped in 2 green garlics for the scallions, because i was excited about using my farmers’ market find. that said, my husband found the recipe a bit garlicky (i also used a large clove of garlic in place of the small one called for in the sauce); i thought it was delicious. verdict: green light
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