Friday, February 20, 2009

lentil stew, an outline

So two days ago I ran out of grocery funds and found myself face to face with my pantry, no clear idea of what to make in my head.

I had a bucket full of lentils, though, and my fridge was thankfully stocked with aromatics for the base of a soup( onions, carrots, celery two random red peppers). I had some frozen sausage, tucked away in my freezer, and since my husband was running errands, I asked him to pick up some greens for two dollars a bunch.

I love peasant food. I absolutely love the ingenuity, the creativity and the pride with which the Old World poor made their food. Give me a whole chicken, some vegetables, any dairy product, and a crusty bread, and I promise you a hearty feast. Every culture has that ingredient that they worked with the most.

I found a recipe for lentils sausage and greens stew, and improvised. It helps that I own several cookbooks, as well as an internet connection.

Here's some basics I figured out: Any grain paired with some kind of animal fat equals filling goodness. The fat pairs with the texture of the fiber provided by the grain, flavors it, and sort of lubricates it. The stew recipe called for bacon and sausage, a double dose of pork flavor.

The second lesson? Hot and sweet works well in this. I had leftover baked sweet potato pieces, red peppers, and jalapeno peppers. Along with the carrots from the maripois and the onions, this created a sweet and spicy partner for the pork fat.

The layers of flavor I found in this impromptu dish blew me away.

To make:

  • 1 lb of lentils, pre-soaked ( at least two hours, four is best)
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery ( I substituted 1 red bell pepper)
  • 1 package of Baby Bella mushrooms, sliced thick
  • 1 large sweet potato, baked and chopped (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp Cumin
  • 1 Tbsp Paprika
  • enough salt to cause a heart attack.
  • 4 cups of water ( I only had one can of broth, so I added water.)
  • 1 15oz can chicken broth
  • 1 cup white wine (cooking wine)
  • 2 cups rice, pre-cooked.
  • 1 lb of sausage (Italian, mild)
  • 5 pieces of smoked bacon
  • 1 bunch Swiss Chard
  • olive oil
Broil sausages to desired doneness.
Meanwhile, slowly cook the bacon to render the fat, remove from pan, add onions, carrots, celery/ red pepper, and mushrooms. Add at least two teaspoons of salt. ( This helps them let go of their liquids and break down. Saute till tender. Add water, white wine and broth, bring to a boil. Add lentils, sweet potato, bacon, and half the sausages, cut into slices. ( I add only half now so that the soup will absorb the flavor, but these pieces of sausage lose some of their texture, so I save the other half for the meaty texture and brighter flavor) Cook for 10-20 minutes, depending on preferred texture of lentils. I like them soft, but still discernible, so I cooked for 20 minutes.
Once 20 minutes have passed, add cleaned Swiss Chard and the rest of the sausage. Cook until Chard is wilted, about ten minutes more.

Can be served with crusty bread, or rice, or alone. In these economic times (when both rice and bread ar emore expensive due to poor prioritizing...nevermind. The rice or bread helps spread the wealth, so to speak.)

This makes enough to feed a small army for a few days. In my house, that means the leftovers feed us for three or four dinners.

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