Monday, May 17, 2010

Red Lentil Stew

I LOVE lentil/bean/pea soups. I adore them. For three reasons.

1. They are super healthy.
2. They are super easy.
3. They taste fantastic.

I’ve made split pea soup and various lentil stews with the same basic principles you’ll find in the recipe below. Add or subtract whatever vegetables you like. I used red lentils here, which turn yellow when cooked. But you can use green lentils, or yellow split peas, or whatever you like.

Red Lentil Stew:
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 big cloves garlic, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 small bell pepper, diced
1/2 carton button mushrooms, sliced
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 1/2 cups dried red lentils
2 tsp cumin
1-2 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp freshly-ground fennel seed
1/2 tsp freshly-ground cardamom
2 carrots, sliced on the bias
1-2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
handful of fresh herbs (like cilantro, parsley, and/or basil), chopped

Heat a large pot with olive oil on med-low. Test a piece of onion; if it sizzles when you drop it in, add all the onion. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Don't touch it or stir it. Let it do its thing. It's not gonna burn. After 5 minutes, give it a little stir, then let it sit again. Once the onions are soft, add the garlic, celery, and peppers. Let it cook another few minutes until soft.

Now, add the lentils, spices, and water to just cover. Scrape up the caramelized bits from the bottom of the pan with the spatula. Bring to a boil, reduce to low, cover and let simmer for 30 minutes to 1 hour. You'll most likely have to add a little more water if the soup starts to get too thick, but you want a stew-like texture, so be careful to only add enough water to cook the lentils. During the last 15 minutes of cooking, add the carrots, mushrooms, and peppers and cook, covered, until soft.

Remove from heat, and add the apple cider vinegar, fresh herbs, and salt & pepper to taste.

The stew is excellent served with rosemary-olive biscuits, above.

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