Vegetable Lentil Stew
Hello again. After a long period when my workload left me with very little free time for blogging, my schedule has opened up and is allowing me more time for my favorite kitchen projects. In the meantime, my husband and I have moved from the desert landscape of Las Vegas back to our home state of Pennsylvania. I’m thrilled to be back. When I first photographed my vegetable lentil stew recipe, it was keeping me warm and cozy during a cold snap at the end of April. Then work picked up again and I had to postpone the write-up until now. But here we are in early June with another string of unseasonably brisk days, so once again this post may be somewhat timely. As for my friends back in the Southwest and other warm climates, you may prefer to hold onto this one for next winter…
This recipe makes a big pot of delicious soup. I recommend an enameled cast iron pot if you have one, because the onions caramelize so nicely, adding extra richness to the broth. However, the magic ingredients for me are the fresh rosemary and thyme. While you may choose to experiment with different veggies in this recipe, the fresh herbs add an eye-widening boost of flavor that really makes it special, so I recommend leaving those in the mix.
Unless you’re using canned beans, the night before you make this recipe you may want to soak 1 cup of dried cranberry beans (or other beans – cannellini, kidney or pinto beans would work well) in a bowl of water. In the morning, rinse the beans and cook them for about two hours with a piece of kombu (kelp), which will impart some minerals and may help with digestibility. I use my VitaClay Multi-Cooker, which I love because the interior container is made of clay instead of questionable non-stick materials. It cooks perfect beans every time and requires very little oversight. One cup of dried beans yields about 3 cups of cooked beans, so save your extra cooked beans for a quick veggie stir-fry later.
One more very important note: Always sort your beans and lentils before you cook them, to make sure there are no stones in their midst. Be vigilant, because sometimes the hidden stones are the same size as the lentils and they could easily break a tooth. Check out this photo below for an example. It’s not uncommon to find one, and they sometimes look similar to the lentils!
- 1 red onion, diced
- 2 T. olive oil
- 6 tricolor carrots (3 sliced thin, 3 cut into chunks)
- 6 ribs of celery (3 sliced thin, 3 cut into chunks)
- 1 shallot, minced
- 6 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 tomatoes, de-seeded and chopped
- 1 c. French green lentils, sorted (necessary) and soaked in advance (optional)
- 2 to 3 tsp. sea salt
- 6 purple potatoes, chopped into chunks (keep the nutritious skin on)
- 1 portobello mushroom cap, chopped into chunks
- 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
- 1 sprig of fresh thyme
- 5 Tuscan kale leaves, de-stemmed and chopped or sliced into ribbons
- 1.5 c. cooked cranberry beans (or other beans)
Heat 2 T. of olive oil in a large pot (preferably enameled cast iron for the way it caramelizes the onions so nicely) over medium-high heat. Sauté the diced red onion until it begins to soften. Add the 3 thinly sliced carrots and 3 thinly sliced celery ribs. Stir occasionally until they begin to brown. Add the minced garlic and shallots and stir for a minute more.
Add 6 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add two of the chopped tomatoes. Simmer until all the veggies are soft.
Blend with an immersion blender to make your broth.
Add the 1 cup of French green lentils, another cup of water and 2 tsp. of sea salt and return to a simmer. If you soaked your lentils in advance, you can move directly to the next step. If you did not, give them a 5-minute head start over the rest of the ingredients.
Now you’ll begin adding your soup veggies, which have been cut into thicker chunks to hold up through cooking. Look at the glorious rich colors of these ingredients! Start with the potatoes. Then wait a few minutes and then add the carrots and celery. Wait a few more minutes and add the last tomato and portobello mushroom. Add the sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme. You can leave them on the stem, because you’ll pull them out at the end (although some of the leaves will come off, and that’s perfectly wonderful, too!).
When the potatoes and lentils in particular are soft enough to eat, which should take about 15 minutes, then add the cooked beans and kale leaves, and allow them to simmer until just heated through. Taste the stew and add up to another tsp. of sea salt, to taste. Remove the rosemary and thyme stems, and this is ready to serve!
A slice of rustic whole wheat bread makes a great accompaniment. Leftovers keep well for a few days in the fridge.
What’s healthy about this recipe?
Aside from being beautiful, purple potatoes are rich in the immune-boosting antioxidant anthocyanin. And like all potatoes, they are naturally high in potassium and dietary fiber, and provide some nice plant-based protein, too.
Kale is a nutritional powerhouse, and a good source of calcium, iron, folic acid and vitamins K, A, C and B6. It is reported to be effective at preventing certain cancers and reducing inflammation, as well as boosting the body’s detoxification mechanisms.
French green lentils are dinner plate all-stars. When people ask you where you get your protein, you can tell them that these little beauties pack 13 grams per quarter cup. They also deliver a healthy dose of folate, iron, phosphorus and potassium.
Everyone knows that carrots are healthy. Specifically, they are an excellent source of Vitamins A, C and K, while celery is a good source of Vitamins A, K and folate.
Pretty marbled cranberry beans provide another 10 grams of protein per quarter cup. They’re also a good source of calcium, dietary fiber and iron.
One large tomato provides about a third of the Vitamin A and C you need in a day. It also delivers a bit of Vitamin K, calcium, iron and protein. Tomatoes are also full of antioxidants – and particularly lycopene – which researchers have connected to good bone health, and they’re also known to promote heart health by lowering cholesterol and reducing the platelet aggregation that leads to atherosclerosis.
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