In keeping with the seasonal inclination to hibernate, my chief requirements for meal creation on these chilly days = hot + heavy. Even for snacking, I now choose ramen over an apple, oatmeal over humus. Cold food is useless to me! But some tiny, rational part of my brain remembers that an extra ten pounds in pasta weight is also useless to me & my wardrobe. So occasionally I have the presence of mind to cook something hot, heavy, AND healthy. A winter trifecta!
Lentils have long been banished to my mental realm of “not obviously edible.” Are they peas? beans? grains? Does one eat them like rice, or like soup, or with a pile of yogurt? Unknown! But a friend recommended them recently as being both cheap, easy, & delicious, and I decided to take the plunge. This was the first recipe I stumbled upon, highly rated over at All Recipes, and I’ll include it here because I made a few additions. I’m glad I chanced it, because the result is so much more complex and delicious than I expected from its components. Lentils, whatever type of food they might be, have proven very edible indeed!
Spinach Tomato Lentil Stew
1 hour to table; serves 4
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 or 2 onions, halved and sliced into 1/2 rings
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup red lentils
2.5 cups vegetable broth (for thick stew consistency; add more water for a soupier version)
14 oz canned diced tomatoes
8-10 oz fresh spinach
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1. Heat oil in a heavy pan over medium heat. Saute onion for 10 minutes or so, until it begins to turn golden. Add minced garlic and saute for another minute or so.
2. Add lentils, tomatoes, and broth. Bring mixture to a boil. Cover, lower heat, and simmer about 35 minutes, until lentils are soft ( this may take less time, depending on your water and the lentils).
3. Add spinach, salt, cumin, and cinnamon. Cover and simmer until the spinach is wilted, about 10 minutes. Grind in pepper & extra garlic to taste.
Serving suggestion: it’s great alone, with a dollop of sour cream or greek yogurt, but even more filling served over brown rice, a sweet potato, or barley (my fave). The recipe also seems like a good starting point for variation; I have made it with diced sweet potato instead of tomatoes for a completely different flavor. And the kids devoured it with the last-minute addition of diced pepperoni!