Hearty Lentil Stew

IMG_2066Picture it: the cold, winter wind blowing; a dark, hectic day with lots of errands and waiting in long lines. Then, you arrive home at last… and now you have to cook dinner?! Never fear: soup is here!

Soup has a reputation for being a long-simmered, complicated process best relegated to grandmothers. If not, it might be a pale, watery, saddening bowl of limp vegetables with a hefty dash of pitifulness — a last resort poured from a can. While it is true that some terrific soups require a lot of cooking time, many soups come together in minutes and then cook for less than an hour. Dinner in less than an hour on a weeknight? Sign me up! (We won’t even talk about the canned stuff!)

Today’s hearty recipe was based on an old-world Italian favorite. The ingredients are mostly pantry staples or common supermarket produce, so you won’t necessarily have to make any special trips to the grocery store.

If you’ve never been introduced to lentils, now is as good a time as any! Lentils are inexpensive, tiny powerhouses of nutrients and — unlike larger members of the legume family — they take a conveniently small amount of time to fully cook (and without all of that dreaded soaking business!). Once considered exotic in the North American kitchen, you can now find lentils in a beautiful array of colors and sizes in your IMG_2068grocery store. The most common are either green or brown. (For a favorite, albeit fancier lentil soup recipe: check out this post from spring 2010.)

Another added bonus to this soup: each serving contains over 14g of fiber! Fiber is your friend. In fact, you’re supposed to get no less than 24g each day. According to nutritionists, getting 24g or more per day can help you in the fight against certain cancers, diabetes, and heart disease.

While it is true that there are a lot of products in the supermarket aisles, these days, boasting enormous amounts of fiber on their label, the jury is still out on whether or not added fiber provides the same benefits as getting your fiber the natural way (fruits, vegetables, and whole grains). Those other products out there often contain some pretty incredible sources of fiber, I might add. There was one national brand of bread that listed an ingredient called “cellulose” which turned out to be food grade sawdust. Mmm… just like mom used to make! If your mom were a woodchuck, maybe.

Hearty Lentil Stew
Adapted from Cooking Light
Serves 6

    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1 large onion, chopped
    1 cup chopped celery
    1 cup chopped carrot
    3 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
    5 cups vegetable broth or low-sodium chicken broth
    28 ounces crushed or diced tomatoes, undrained
    1 cup dried lentils, rinsed and sorted
    3/4 cup instant brown rice
    1/2 teaspoon dried savory
    1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
    1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon black pepper

    Heat oil in a small Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, carrot, and garlic to pan; sauté 8 minutes or until tender. Add broth and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Stir in lentils; simmer 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in rice, savory and oregano; simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in red pepper, salt, and black pepper.

IMG_2073

By the way, if you aren’t able to find instant brown rice in your grocery store or if you would rather not buy it, you can serve the stew over regular cooked brown rice or just add drained, partially-cooked brown rice; letting it cook along with the stew as directed. The main thing is to keep it simple: it’s always best to use whatever you have on hand and are likely to use in future recipes.

In less than an hour, your house can be filled with the warm smells and sensations of an old-world kitchen and your bowl with this chunky, hearty stew — no cans or sawdust necessary. The leftovers are great for a quick, weekday lunch. They will keep in the fridge for several days, or they freeze well if you’d like to save them for even longer. I sometimes make a double batch of this soup just so we can have some in the freezer on occasions when we need a meal in a big hurry.

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~ by Jason on January 27, 2011.

6 Responses to “Hearty Lentil Stew”

  1. Can’t wait to try this soup. Janie doesn’t really care for soup and I normally have to freeze a lot of leftovers – or pawn them off to friends. I am going to try a freezing trick next time I make a soup. I read (somewhere) that you can use plastic-wrap-lined muffin tins to freeze soup. It supposedly makes nice muffin-sized portions that can be put into plastic bags and easily heated individually for perfect portions! One lump or two?

    • I’ve not frozen soup in a muffin tin, before, but I have frozen it in plastic containers and then removed it from the container and put it in a plastic baggie to save room in the freezer. Either one is a really good space-saving strategy (stackable soup!).

      And whaddya mean Janie doesn’t care for soup?!

  2. Jason,.while I have yet to try lentils, I bought some awhile back and wonered how to fix..your recipe came in the nick of time.
    Will let you know the results..thanks.

    • Hooray! If you like beans, you’ll like lentils. They present more of a textural difference than a taste difference — at least in my opinion. Little tiny beany discs instead of giant mushy beans. Let me know how it turns out — and if you decided to change anything.

  3. I love lentils, we make mock “sloppy joes” with them. This soup looks yummy, I am going to have to make it 🙂

    • Lentils are potent little beans! I’ve used them lots of times — a few soup recipes, an Egyptian dish, and one recipe for lentil burgers. You’ll have to share the sloppy joes recipe sometime. 🙂

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