For a bowl of winter comfort, lentils are the easy answer

I TAKE lentils for granted. I’ve had bursts of creativity using them, but for the most part they sit in my pantry while I reach for bigger, more tempting members of the legume family week in and week out. Until one day, I’m out of cans of chickpeas, don’t have any cooked beans in the fridge or freezer, and don’t feel like taking out the pressure cooker to bang out a new batch.

That’s when lentils are my saviour. They cook so quickly (even without soaking), and I can simmer them until tender for use in salads, pasta dishes, tacos and the like.

Or I can do what feels most right this time of year and toss them into soups and stews. My latest inspiration for the latter approach comes from America’s Test Kitchen’s book “Nutritious Delicious.”

It’s a Thai-style red curry, but with much less coconut milk (and therefore, less fat), a combination of black lentils and tofu for protein, and barely cooked red bell peppers and snow peas for crunch.

Every ingredient plays its part, but the lentils are the backbone, dependable as ever. – Text & Photo by The Washington Post

Thai Red Curry With Lentils and Tofu

Four to six servings, Healthy

Ingredients

14 ounces extra-firm tofu, drained and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1/2 teaspoon salt, or more as needed

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

One tablespoon canola oil

One tablespoon Thai red curry paste, such as Thai Kitchen brand

Two-and-a-half cups water

One tablespoon white or red miso

One cup black lentils (may substitute French green lentils or brown or regular green lentils)

1/2 cup canned coconut milk

One red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch strips

Four ounces snow peas (strings removed), halved lengthwise

1/2 cup lightly packed chopped basil

One tablespoon fresh lime juice

Two scallions, trimmed and cut crosswise into thin slices

Steps

SPREAD the tofu on a baking sheet lined with paper towels and let it drain for at least 20 minutes. Gently press dry with paper towels and season with the salt and pepper.

Pour the oil into a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the curry paste and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about one minute. Stir in the water, miso and lentils, increase the heat to medium-high and bring the liquid to a gentle boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender and about two-thirds of the liquid has been absorbed, 30 to 35 minutes.

Stir in the coconut milk. Add the tofu, bell pepper and snow peas, and increase the heat to medium-high. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tofu is warmed through and the vegetables are crisp-tender, two minutes.

Turn off the heat, stir in the basil and lime juice. Taste, and add more salt, as needed. Sprinkle with the scallions and serve.

Nutrition | Per serving (based on six): 170 calories, 9g protein, 12g carbohydrates, 9g fat, 4g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 450mg sodium, 3g dietary fibre, 2g sugar