Michael’s cookbook is organized very much like the menu at MGFD. Recipes are divided into categories: snacks, small plates, salads, pizza, pasta, and sandwiches, large plates, and extra-large plates. Flipping through the “large plates” section though, you’ll come across a recipe that’s slightly different from the rest. Among selections like whole roasted chicken, grilled wild salmon, and mustard and molasses St. Louis ribs, there’s a recipe for curried lentil stew with Greek yogurt. This stew is not only vegetarian and affordable to make, but it’s also ready in less than 40 minutes.
Michael used to make it when he was trying to save up to open his first restaurant. But that doesn’t mean that the stew sacrifices flavor for affordability — or that he ever gets tired of making it. This is the kind of recipe that could easily be added to the home cook’s rotation of delicious, reliable dinner meals. It features hearty levels of flavor from cumin, curry powder and red curry paste — made with red chili pepper, garlic, lemongrass, galangal, salt, shallot, spices and kaffir lime. It also pleases with a variety of textures. The stew is topped with a dollop of cool, creamy Greek-style yogurt and crunchy chopped cashews. Once it comes together, it is pure delicious comfort.
Curried Lentil Stew with Greek Yogurt
4 tablespoons canola oil
1 carrot, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 cups lentils
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon red curry paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 large white onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1 head kale (about 3/4 pound), cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup Greek-style yogurt
1/4 cup roasted and salted cashews, coarsely chopped
Fresh cilantro leaves
1. Put a large pot over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of the oil. When the oil is shimmering, add the carrot and celery. Cook and stir until the vegetables soften a bit, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the lentils, bay leaf, curry powder, curry paste, and cumin and cook until the lentils are coated and the spices are fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Add 1 quart water, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until the lentils are tender and the water is absorbed, 20 to 30 minutes.
2. Set a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. When the oil is shimmering, add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and caramelized, 8 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium, add the honey, and cook until the onion is brown and sticky, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the vinegar and kale. Fold the kale over so it comes in contact with the bottom of the pan and wilts, 2 to 3 minutes; the kale will not be fully cooked at this point.
3. Mix the kale mixture into the lentils. Simmer over low heat until the stew is thick, 5 to 8 minutes. Serve the lentil stew in bowls, garnishing each with a dollop of yogurt, some cashews, and a few cilantro leaves.