Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Balsamic Lentil Stew

Can I share some happy news with you? I recently made a purchase that I am super excited about...lame I know...but all the same still beyond awesome. I traded in some old textbooks on Amazon and got a nice big credit...everyone should sell their books back! I decided to take my Mom's advice to splurge and buy the Cranford and Return to Cranford series, and the North and South series. Yes! Don't be a hater. I am trying to bulk up my BBC and Masterpiece Theater collection...best things ever. If you haven't seen any I highly suggest you rent them on Netflix right now, I promise you won't be disappointed. Now on to the lentils...

Wow, I could have sworn I already posted a recipe for lentil soup/stew...but no I haven't. How is that possible? I love lentils! We usually eat them about 4 times a month. Unlike dried beans that need to be soaked before cooking, most lentils are super easy and require no soaking. They are a great go to staple in our cabinets. They are great hot or cold. In a soup, or in a salad. As a dedicated lentil follower I strongly urge you to incorporate them into your diet...I endorse them, and I love them.

When I was a little one we used to eat out with my Papa (grandpa) at this local Lebanese restaurant. For the most part I remember thinking that most of the food there was weird and yucky. The only thing I would eat was the pita bread and a bowl of plain lentils and rice. I loved them. It was so simple and good. That love of lentils has stayed with me throughout the years, and I always have a soft spot in my heart for them. Just as a side note - I now love Lebanese food...what on earth was my lame childhood palette thinking?

Just a few things about Sir Lentil you should know:

1) They come in a nice variety of colors. Green, French green, brown, yellow, black, red, and crimson.

2) They can be sprouted...which I won't get into now, but sprouting is a good thing...do it.

3) Red and yellow lentils have a lower fiber content then the green and black types.

4) Just to give you an idea of how good lentils are for you...3.5oz of dried lentils have 26 grams of protein, 1 gram of fat, and 31 grams of fiber. In case you aren't sure, that is very very good. Plus they are high in iron...bonus.

5) "In Jewish Mourning tradition, they are considered as food for mourners, together with boiled eggs. The reason is that their round shape symbolizes the life cycle from birth to death." - Wikipedia

Balsamic Lentil Stew
by Dagny Syversen

1 pound dried lentils, I used French black ones they hold up better then the green ones, rinse them and drain in a colander
64 ounces chicken broth, any broth, or water
2 onions, diced

5 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
3 TBS balsamic vinegar

1 pound ground Italian Sausage, or any ground meat will work, beef, chicken, turkey
1 can diced tomatoes

1 TBS dried oregano leaves

4 cups packed fresh washed spinach, or one box of the frozen stuff

Super easy. Pour about 1 TBS of olive oil into bottom of large stockpot. Add sausage, break it up, and cook over medium high heat until no longer pink. Remove from pan and set aside. At this point there will be a good amount of fat left in the pan. I usually pour out 1/2 and keep the rest in the pan. Return pan to medium high heat and add onions. Saute 5-7 minutes until caramelized. Add garlic and stir. Return the sausage to the pan. Add the rinsed and drained lentils to the pan and stir. Add the balsamic vinegar and stir. It might start to fizzle and hiss at you at this point, don't panic, just keeping stirring. Add the diced tomatoes., and oregano. Add the broth or water and stir. Bring to a boil and cook 20-30 minutes until lentils are tender. Stir every few minutes and check the liquid level. If the stew is getting too thick and sticking to the bottom add some more water or broth.

Once lentils are cooked add the spinach to the pan and stir until cooked. This is a quick process and should only take a minute or two.

A few notes. Don't salt your lentils at the beginning of the cooking process, salt will make them mushy and they will break down a lot faster. I didn't even salt and pepper this stew, the Italian sausage had enough seasoning that it didn't require anymore. If you use a different meat you will have to add additional seasoning. If you want to make this more soupy add more liquid.
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  1. OH MY GOSH CRANFORD IS THE BEST. We call our apt. "Cranford"

  2. This looks delicious! Thanks for all the factoids on lentils too!