Curried Red Lentils with Pickled Fennel and Wilted Kale

According to the rules of search engine optimization, I think that I am supposed to tell you in the first sentence of my post that these curried lentils with pickled fennel and wilted kale are the best thing that will ever happen to you. And they are.  But what I really want to tell you is that the last month of summer and beginning part of fall have been nutso here on the home front.  I love my kids more than life but thank God they are back in school.  Halle-freaking-lujah!


At some point over the past month, I gave up on trying to accomplish anything but survival.  My brain was absolute mush.  I think I had PTSD from being with my little monkeys almost 24/7.  I was talking to my mom about it and I told her that in any other circumstances, my “office” over the past six weeks would be considered a hostile work environment.   I do not thrive in chaos but our three sweet and adorable children successfully turned my life upside down. That’s what kids do, right?  And you can either go along for the ride or fight the fight the whole way through.  (You’ll go along for the ride anyway.)  I floated down the river of crazy and finally landed here.

So in case you got the picture that it is all sunshine, roses and perfectly photographed food over here, it is not. This mama nearly lost it over the past month.  


So here we are. Two weeks into September. I finally have all three of our kids in school, albeit not the same school, AFTER SEVEN YEARS OF PARENTING.  I need a dancing lady emoji.  The little one is in school for three hours a day but whatevs.  I am getting there.

It’s starting to feel like fall and with the shift in seasons, I found myself craving comfort food. That’s how these curried lentils with pickled fennel and wilted kale were born.  The tartness and crunch of the fennel is such a nice contrast with the cozy, curried deliciousness of the lentils.  As for the kale, it’s no secret that kale is packed with nutrients. While I could have easily pickled the kale together with the fennel, I liked how the warm, wilted kale worked with the lentils and the pickled fennel. The three elements together are fantastic, and I really think you all are going to love this.


It’s a great time for a healthy reset.   May we all start to re-ground ourselves and lean into fall!

Curried Red Lentils with Pickled Fennel and Wilted Kale
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For the Pickled Fennel
  1. (note: makes more pickled fennel than you will need for this recipe)
  2. 1 large fennel bulb (1 to 1 1/2 lb.), sliced very thin on a mandoline
  3. 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  4. 1 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled
  5. 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  6. 2 bay leaves
  7. 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  8. 1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
  9. 1 teaspoon salt
For the lentils
  1. 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  2. 2 cups chopped onion
  3. 3 cloves garlic, minced
  4. 1 teaspoon fresh minced ginger
  5. 1 teaspoon turmeric
  6. 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  7. 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  8. 1/4 teaspoon cayenne*
  9. 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  10. 2 cups chopped tomato
  11. 1 jalapeño, seeded, deveined and chopped
  12. 1 1/2 cup red lentils
  13. 3 1/2 cups water
  14. kosher salt to taste
For the Kale
  1. 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  2. 1/2 lb. lacinato kale, stems removed and cut into 3/4 inch strips
  3. salt to taste
  4. pepper to taste
  1. freshly squeezed lime juice
  2. lime wedges
  3. fresh cilantro
For the Pickled Fennel
  1. Place all of the ingredients together in a non-reactive bowl.
  2. Give the fennel a gentle stir so that all of the ingredients are evenly distributed.
  3. Cover and place the fennel in the refrigerator to marinate.
  4. Stir after an hour, making an effort to transfer the fennel that was on the bottom to the top and vice versa.
  5. Allow the fennel to marinate 2 to 4 hours. It will be ready to go!
For the lentils
  1. Heat the coconut oil in a saucepan that is large enough to hold all of your ingredients over medium high heat.
  2. Add the onions and cook until the onions are translucent, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the garlic, ginger, turmeric, cumin, coriander, cayenne and cinnamon. Cook for a minute more.
  4. Add the tomatoes and the jalapeño and reduce the heat to medium low. Stir occasionally and cook until the tomatoes are very soft and start to look like the beginnings of a rough tomato sauce.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool slightly.
  6. Carefully transfer the mixture to a high speed blender and blend until smooth.
  7. Transfer the sauce back into the original saucepan.
  8. Add the lentils and the water. Gently stir so that the mixture is evenly incorporated.
  9. Turn the heat to medium high heat.
  10. Then reduce the heat to a simmer when the lentils start to bubble.
  11. Cook the lentils uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes until the lentils are tender.
  12. Add salt to taste.
For the Kale
  1. While the lentils are simmering, put the teaspoon of the coconut oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the kale.
  2. Allow the kale to cook down until the kale is just tender, turning the kale occasionally with tongs.
  3. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Set the kale aside.
To serve
  1. Ladle your lentils into a large serving bowl.
  2. On one side of the bowl, place your kale on top of the lentils.
  3. Using tongs, add a generous portion of the pickled fennel next to the kale on top of the lentils. Make sure you allow the excess liquid to drain off prior to adding the fennel. (You will not use all of your fennel.)
  4. Squeeze a bit of freshly squeezed lime juice over the curried lentils.
  5. Add some lime wedges in the center of your dish. (Your guests can add additional lime juice to their liking.)
  6. Garnish with some roughly chopped cilantro.
  7. Tuck a few sprigs of cilantro amongst your veggies.
  8. Serve.
  1. * This makes a relatively mild curry. If you want more of a kick, increase the amount of cayenne accordingly.
  2. Serves 6.
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