Meatless Monday: Curried Lentils with Roasted Cauliflower and Freekeh

By Analiese Paik

Cauliflower is in season. Shocking orange, green and purple varieties beckon from farm stand shelves and farmers’ market stalls. Heed their calls to make this healthy and delicious vegetable the centerpiece of your next meal. A member of the Brassicaceae family, cauliflower and its cruciferous cousins like broccoli, cabbage and kale, are prized for their cancer fighting properties. Purple cauliflower is unique in that it contains anthocyanins, the same antioxidants found in red wine.

Steaming and sautéing cauliflower are fine, but roasting coaxes and concentrates its flavors, yielding a tender, sweet vegetable even a kid could love.  To make roasted cauliflower as a side dish, just follow step 3 in the recipe below. Tandem cooking the cauliflower in the oven while the lentils and rice are each cooking on the stove makes for a speedy dinner. You’ll have plenty of leftovers for a convenient lunch or dinner later in the week.

Freekeh is an ancient grain that's recently become more available to the consumer.

Freekeh is a roasted green, or immature, rice, that has a very rich and nutty flavor. It’s toothy texture, not unlike that of whole barley, adds contrast to soft lentils and tender cauliflower. Available in the bulk food aisle at Whole Foods Markets from New York grower Cayuga Organics, Freekeh is prepared the  same way as brown rice, with a ratio of 2 parts water to 1 part grain. I cook all my grains in a rice cooker so I can set it to cook and then open it when dinner’s ready. Rice cookers automatically sense when the grain is cooked and switch to the “keep warm” setting.

Feeds 6-8

Prep time: 15 min.

Cooking time: 25 min.

Cooking requirements: 4 quart saucepan, 2 quart saucepan or rice cooker, baking pan or sheet pan

Ingredients

  • 2 cups uncooked lentils, green, brown or black (not red)
  • 1 head fresh white, orange or purple cauliflower, cut into florets of roughly even size
  • 1 medium onion, cut into medium dice
  • 1 cup Freekeh (green rice available at Whole Foods Markets in the bulk aisle)
  • 1 small head garlic (optional), separated into cloves and peeled (leave cloves whole)
  • 2 tablespoons good curry powder (mild or ¾ mild and ¼ hot)
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt

Cooking Method

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and put rack in the center of oven.
  2. Rice: Pick out any stray leaves or stones from the Freekah and rinse. Add 1 cup rice and 2 cups water to the rice cooker and set to cook. Or bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a 2 quart saucepan, add 1 cup Freekah, lower to a simmer and cover and cook until tender, about 20-25 minutes. The grain does not need to split open and become fluffy to be done.
  3. Roast two batches of cauliflower if you like to double up on vegetables as I do.

    Oil the bottom of a baking pan or sheet pan large enough to hold the cauliflower florets in a single layer. Add the florets and whole garlic cloves, drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil (enough to coat each floret), sprinkle with sea salt and toss well. Place in 400 degree oven on the middle shelf and cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring halfway through. They’re done when they are easily pierced with a paring knife.

  4. Set the 4 quart saucepan over medium heat, add 2 tsp olive oil, then add the onion and cook until translucent, about 3-4 minutes.
  5. Pick out any small stones from the lentils, rinse, and set aside.
  6. Add ginger, curry power, and optional chopped garlic (add only if you will not be roasting the cauliflower with garlic) to the onions. Stir until the spices are aromatic, about one minute.
  7. Add the lentils, 4 ½ cups water, bay leaf and salt, raise the heat to high and bring to the boil, then lower to a simmer and cook uncovered about 20-25 minutes. Taste test the lentils after 20 minutes to check for tenderness. Add more water if it becomes too dried out (you want the lentils to have some liquid in them).
  8. Remove the bay leaf from the lentils when done. Remove  the cauliflower from the oven and gently stir into the lentils. Check for seasoning. Serve with Freekah.

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