|Lentil stew served over quinoa and topped with fresh cilantro|
Learn to love lentils. I know I am always admonishing you to learn to love things (like green papayas) but if you learn to love nothing else learn to love lentils.
Lentils are like fast-food beans. They don’t require hours of soaking and cooking and still make the hearty backbone of a hundred garden meals. You can eat them hot or cold, pureed or whole and they take whatever seasoning you throw at them at hold it tight.
A plus for the really lazy gardener, a vegetarian lentil stew lasts in the fridge for a week or more – and anything leftover beyond that can go in the freezer.
I make a variety of lentil dishes – most of them involve greens in some shape or form – and many of them have a similar set of seasonings.
For me, the standard lentil accoutrements are cumin, smoked paprika, rosemary and thyme (in addition to salt and pepper) – other seasonings that often make an appearance include sage, cayenne pepper, garlic powder and liquid smoke.
Lentil stew is great by itself or you can serve it over a grain like rice, bulgur or quinoa.
This variation calls for rutabagas, a root vegetable sort of like turnips or parsnips but – to me at least – slightly sweeter and more tender.
We grew a handful of rutabagas in the garden as an experiment with so-so results.
A few grew well, a few ended up kind of tough and a few didn’t develop the bulbs expected of a root vegetable.
Like other root vegetables, the green top of the rutabaga is just as edible as the root and so I use both in the recipe.
If you buy rutabagas from the store and they don’t have the tops on them, you can always add another leafy green like collards, kale or mustard.
You can also add other vegetables like carrots, celery or potatoes.
What do I need?
|Rutabaga greens soaking in the sink|
5 Rutabagas – including greens
7 cloves garlic
1 pound (one small package) lentils
1 T dried thyme
1 t smoked paprika
1 T cumin
1 sprig rosemary- stripped and crushed
4 cubes vegetable bullion
3 dashed of liquid smoke
Salt and pepper to taste (but use a lot of both)
What do I do?
-Put the lentils in a pot with 6-8 cups of water and a bit of salt- (adding salt early helps the lentils keep their shape and makes them a bit tougher. If you want a smoother stew add the salt at the end.) You can pick through the lentils to make sure there are no deformed ones or, as in the last batch I cooked, a small pebble (For some reason the pebble is more common than you would think- keep an eye out for it)
- Bring the lentils to a boil, stirring occasionally.
- Add the herbs/spices and bullion
- Dice the onion and add it to the pot.
- Soak the rutabaga (or other) greens in the sink for 15 minutes and then roughly chop them
- Wash, peel and dice the rutabagas
- Add the diced rutabagas and roughed chopped greens after the lentils have boiled for about 15 minutes-
- Cook another 15 minutes or so
- Correct the seasoning and also the consistency- If you want a soup you may need to add a bit of water, if you want a thicker dish to go on top of rice then you might want to cook it a bit longer to thicken it up.
The key to any dish like this is to taste it and correct the seasoning repeatedly. Put some in a bowl and taste it. I rarely measure the spices I use in a stew. I throw in a bunch and let it cook 10 minutes and then I taste it and add whatever is needed. There is no right way for something like this to taste. Either you like it or you don’t – if you don’t, then add spices/flavors that you like until it tastes good. If you can’t get it to taste good then buy some cheap wine and have a dinner party – after an appetizer and a couple glasses of wine, your friends will be crowning you the next Julia Child.