Saturday, April 7, 2012

Bean and Red Lentil Stew

Illinois has been doing that awesome Midwest thing where it teases you with one warm, sunny, blue sky gorgeous 70 degree day and then spends the next 4 laughing at you as you try to insist that it's perfectly ok to still wear shorts and flip flops and no I am not freezing my patootie off. True, it's not 10 degrees and snowing out, but it's still just shy of the beautiful days of tank tops, sunglasses and beer punch.  It's the weird in between time, when the jacket worn the morning isn't needed by lunchtime and stew is a perfectly sensible dinner, warm, filling, and eaten with the patio doors open and a cool breeze coming in.

This stew was a winner on many fronts.  It was light enough for spring, even if it is called stew.  I finally had a reason to buy garam masala, a "hot" Indian spice blend I can now official be a fan of.  It used some of those pesky black sesame seeds that seem to taunt me every time I open my spice cabinet (I really should hide them way in the back).  And it's super healthy, almost unnecessarily so (even if swimsuit season is oh! so! close!), hence the welcome addition of cheese on top.  And it's easy (aka quite "can-heavy"), it's a crock pot dump, mix, turn on and come home to an apartment full of yummy smells.

Of course, I have my changes.  The crumbled queso fresco on top is a winner and should definitely be kept (besides, you'll have extra laying around for this!).  I loved the olives and instead of having half a can of black olives in my fridge that I'm not quite sure what to do with, I will throw in the whole can next time.  And in this context, I would say any canned beans you have taken up room in your pantry would work.  The recipe called for two cans of chickpeas, and I only had one, hence the introduction of kidney beans.  Also, three cans of beans could stretch this even further, but then again, I am a bean lover.  Also, more lentils.  It is a lentil stew after all, isn't it?  So yes, double lentils.  Oh. And absolutely serve it with some crusty bread.  The recipe below is what I will make next time.  As always, if you are interested in the original recipe, check out the link right under the title.

So, BGCB worthy?  Ben says yes and I can't really see why not.  It seems like quite the go-to, easy vegetarian and, oh yeah, in the crock pot!, kind of meal.  If only I had discovered it at the start of lent... my bad.  Guten Appetit!

Bean and Red Lentil Stew
adapted from Whole Foods, of all places

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 serrano chile, stemmed, seeded and chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
4 tsp. garam masala
2 Tbsp. sesame seeds (black ok)
2-3 cans, 15 oz., chickpeas, or other canned bean, drained and rinsed
1 c. dried red lentils
1 can, 28 oz., tomato puree
2 c. vegetable broth
1 can, 15 oz., black olives, drained
Queso Fresco or other crumbly cheese, to top

In medium pan over medium high heat, heat onion.  Sauté until soft 3-4 minutes.  Add chile, garlic, garam masala and sesame seeds, continuing to sauté until chiles are softened and whole mixture is fragrant.  Transfer mixture to slow cooker.

Add chickpeas/beans, lentils, tomato puree, broth and olives to slow cooker.  Stir until everything is well mixed.  Place lid on top and turn to low for 10 hours.  To serve, ladle into individual bowls and top with crumbled cheese.  Serve with crusty bread.

If you are interested, Whole Foods has some nutrtion information at the bottom of their recipe.  You know, if you're into that whole don't put too much cheese into your mouth kind of thing...

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