Lentils. They’re tiny little wonders, powerhouses nutritionally, and oh so easy to cook. Unlike other legumes, no soaking is required. Lentils are about 30% protein and a significant source of fiber; that’s great news for those of us following a “nutritarian” eating plan. (For more on the whole concept of nutritarian, please check out the book Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman.)
Image courtesy of dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
There are many varieties of lentils. The brownish green ones and the blue French ones take a bit longer to cook but remain rather firm, though tender, when fully cooked. The red ones turn to “mush” very quickly, but are really good in soups to add a creamy base. Yellow ones are the foundation of Indian dal. And there are more varieties beyond these basics! I’ll focus on some of the specifics using different lentils in a later post. For today, my focus are those wonderful basic brownish green lentils.
Last Friday, I made a big pot of lentil stew and I’ve been eating on it every day. The stew itself is pretty basic, but each day I’ve changed it up a bit with a different seasoning. Before I write out my recipe, please note that I didn’t have fresh mushrooms on hand (needed to go to the grocery), but I did have a small can of portobello chunks. Also, I do not cook with salt. Some of the seasonings I use contain it, though. If you’re trying to avoid all salt, you might like to create your own spice blends.
Basic Lentil Stew
1 medium onion (I used red, but any variety works), coarsely chopped
3 stalks of celery, coarsely chopped
4 medium carrots, sliced (about 1/4″ thick)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can no-salt added diced tomatoes (I used Trader Joe’s brand)
1 cup brown lentils, rinsed and picked over
2 cups cubed butternut squash (I used the pre-cut variety from Costco) or substitute sweet potato chunks
3 bay leaves
Water or vegetable broth
1 small – medium zucchini, sliced about 1/4″ thick
1 small can mushrooms or 6 or 7 sliced white or portobello mushrooms
About 8 oz frozen leaf spinach (it’s not exact; I used 1/2 of a bag…you can use fresh spinach, too)
Water saute the onion, celery, carrots and garlic in about 1/4 cup water until the water is almost gone. Add tomatoes, lentils, butternut squash, and bay leaves. Add water or vegetable broth as needed to keep the stew from burning dry and becoming too thick as the lentils cook. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low; cover and cook until the lentils are soft (depending upon your stove, this will take about 30 – 40 minutes; taste them!) Add the zucchini, mushrooms, and spinach and cook, covered, and additional 10 – 15 minutes, until hot.
I re-heat about 1-1/2 cups for my meal and add one of the following before heating: Italian Seasoning and fresh lemon juice, to taste; 1-2 teaspoons green or red Thai Curry Paste (depends upon how hot you like it); 1 – 2 teaspoons Indian Curry Paste (I like Patek’s brand); 2 teaspoons smoked paprika; 1 -2 teaspoons chili powder. I’ve also added other veggies when making this; green peas, corn, green beans, etc. all work well. Get Creative!
This is really versatile and very tasty! I meant to take a picture of my cup of soup today but, the bowl was empty by the time I remembered. Maybe next time.
If you try this recipe, let me know. And please share any changes you make or how you spice it up! Questions or problems? Let me know that, too. Bon Appetit!