Sl0w-cooker evangelists, maybe skip the next few sentences please, because I know how you feel completely betrayed whenever I say something with even the whiff of negativity about your beloved crock pots. And I get it: What’s there not to love about a meal that involves minimal prep and cooks itself all day long freeing you from your dinner shackles to allow for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…Among other things? I won’t go into it again, but I will tell you that one thing I am ALWAYS in pursuit of (besides my unalienable rights), and that is a good vegetarian slow-cooker meal. I recently found one in Dina Cheney’s Year-Round Slow Cooker. In fact, I found thirty-three of them in the book, which, you will be thrilled to hear doesn’t ask you to pack away the slow-cooker when the weather gets warmer, and does an inspired job of incorporating seasonal produce into all the recipes. I made a big pot of these majorly flavorful restaurant-quality lentils last week and used the stash for a meatless main one night, a ready-made side to accompany turkey burgers the next, then, with yogurt and naan, a light weekday lunch. You know, I think I could get used to this.
Lentils with Garam Masala, Coconut, and Pomegranate Seeds
Like a soup or stew, Indian dal features a delicious broth, as does this flavorful, creamy vegetarian take. Studded with jewel-like pomegranate seeds, this dish is delicious paired with raita (cucumber yogurt sauce) and whole wheat or plain naan bread. Be sure to add the salt later in the cooking process so the lentils have a chance to soften. Recipe by Dina Cheney for Year-Round Slow Cooker. (Serves 10: If you have leftovers, it freezes well.)
1 pound dried green lentils, rinsed and picked over (about 2 cups)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups finely chopped red onions (about 1 large)
1⁄4 cup carrots, finely chopped (about 1)
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
Scant 2 teaspoons minced jalapeño (seeds and membranes removed)
1 1⁄2 teaspoons garam masala
1⁄2 teaspoon turmeric
1⁄4 cup plus 1 tablespoon mango chutney
1⁄4 cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken stock
3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed, strained lime juice
One 13 1⁄2-ouce can coconut milk (not low-fat), shaken before opening
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
1⁄4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 cup pomegranate seeds, for garnish
1⁄2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
10 lime wedges, for serving
1. Add the lentils to the slow cooker.
2. Heat the oil in a medium-size heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onions, carrots, garlic, ginger, jalapeño, garam masala, and turmeric and sauté until the onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the chutney, tomato paste, and flour and cook until the flour is no longer visible, about 1 minute.
3. Add the stock and lime juice, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil, whisking. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the coconut milk. Pour over the lentils. Cover and cook on low until the lentils are tender, 6 to 8 hours. Stir in the salt and coconut. Garnish each portion with pomegranate seeds, cilantro, and a lime wedge, and serve.
This recipe was reprinted from Year-Round Slow Cooker (2013) with permission from Taunton Press. Photo credit: Andrew Purcell