Curry Snapper & Red LentilsTuesday, April 16, 2013
Two posts in one week?! Yes, this is really happening folks, and there's more to come. Today marks my one year anniversary as a food blogger, so I figured why not celebrate with some extra special new recipes this week! I thought this Curry Snapper & Red Lentils dish was particularly fun and festive. Besides the vivid colors, curry spices are literally a party going on in your mouth...which seemed completely appropriate for this occasion! When I set out to start The Kitchenista Diaries, my goal was to create flavorful, healthy, gourmet style dishes on a budget. Sunday dinners are my favorite way to branch out with recipes that are a bit more special than regular weekday meals. This dish is a great example of how I often make a small splurge on a nice piece of fish or meat and visit my farmer's market for organic fresh produce. The rest of the dish is supplemented with everyday pantry items. In doing that, it's really easy to make an affordable, restaurant quality at home. With snapper on sale for $9/lb, leftover veggies in the fridge, and a portion of red lentils at a measly $1, this dish easily came in well under $20 for four servings.
Y'all know I love my curries and I'm continuing to find new ways to work these intoxicating flavors into new dishes. My experiment for Sunday Dinner this weekend utilized red lentils. Lentils and I have a love/hate relationship. I love that they're relatively good for you, but hate when I have a pot simmering for what seems like forever and end up with boring brown mush or worse, undercooked lentils. Last time I went to the farmer's market, I stopped by one of the organic shops and the owner recommended trying split red (or orange) lentils. He said they cook much faster, are easy to digest, and take on seasonings really well. This sounded intriguing enough that I decided it was worth giving lentils another chance. As soon as I got home that day I tweeted about my farmer's market finds. My followers recommended making an Indian curry lentil dish, otherwise known as "dal." That was the first thing that came to mind as I brainstormed all weekend how to stretch the food I had on hand. I did have some fresh snapper but knew the rest of the dish was going to have to come from pantry items and leftover veggies to stay within my budget, and that ended up being really easy to do. I was even able to work in a small pot of coconut Jasmine rice on the side. While my version of dal isn't traditional, I figured out a way to make things my own and I have to say I'm quite happy with the way this one turned out! Consider me converted...red lentils are an inexpensive and nutritious add to your pantry and I'm sure there are a ton of ways I'll be able to make use of them.
Searing fish fillets is always a fun endeavor, and the other reason why I enjoyed cooking this dish so much. There are few things more satisfying than properly searing your own piece of fish. It's truly one of those moments that you'll feel like you've brought the gourmet dining experience to your home. Just like most other cooks, I fumbled through this process when I first started preparing fish, but over time I'm proud to say I've been pretty consistently successful Here are some tips I've learned along the way:
For a larger piece of fish, tilt the skillet and use a spoon in a quick circular motion to baste the fish with hot oil. A pat of butter melted into your skillet at this point is an awesome way to get a little extra flavor in there too. Basting the fish helps it to cook more evenly and allows you to concentrate on browning any spots that didn't quite get seared as well.
Set the cooked fish aside and add the chopped tomatoes to the cooked curried lentils. Check seasoning for the last time, adjusting with salt and pepper if needed.
Stir in half of the cilantro and the juice of a lime. Inhale the delicious aromas.
Ladle a good portion of lentils into your bowl, mound a little coconut rice in the center, and lay a piece of seared fish on top. Garnish as you'd like with extra cilantro, fresh tomatoes and lime slices. You're ready to dive in now. Enjoy!