Monday, November 12, 2012

Stewing winter warmth

With the coming of the first snows, I decided it was probably time to start cooking on a decently regular basis again. It seemed likely that with my current diet of open-faced sandwiches and raw vegetables, I would likely not make it through the winter alive. Literally. Something was telling me my body needed more sustenance. Also, I was starting to get more hungry during the night times. Maybe it was my increased running, maybe it's just the lingering cold...I dunno. Whatever it was though, it was telling me to make hot food instead of cold. Okay, fair.

So this past weekend I decided it was high time to make something useful and hearty. What does that normally equate to? Stews. Delicious hearty, healthy stews. And what did I happen to ship over from the States? A multitude of couscous, whole grain rices, and oddly, lentils. My obsession with Fresh n Easy's grain aisle cannot really be explained. There was a time and a place where I would go there and simply stare at the selection, imagining all the wonderful things I could (and sometimes did) cook. Many great things were made. Others were simply fantasized about. In any case, that's how I have my current stock - the things I didn't use in San Diego were shipped with me in my container. Weird, I know, but hey, that's how it happens.

And since I'd been dutifully not cooking since I arrived, they were still in my cupboard, where I had unpacked them.

So, time to use those bad boys and make myself something good.

I found a fabulous recipe on (one of my favorites) for a great red lentil stew. I'll include the recipe at the end of this post.

I didn't have all of the ingredients (as is normal, in my rather still-limited pantry), so I substituted, but it turned out great.

Warm my heart and soul, winter stew! More of this to come, I'm sure...

Red Lentil Stew

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black
1/8 teaspoon chili powder, or to taste

1 (32 ounce) carton chicken broth
1 cup red lentils
1 large carrot, diced

2 tablespoons lemon juice, or to taste
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil for
1 pinch chili powder

1. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Stir in the onion and garlic, and cook until the onion has turned golden brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, cumin, kosher salt, black pepper, and 1/8 teaspoon of chili powder. Cook and stir 2 minutes more until the spices are fragrant.
2. Stir in the chicken broth, lentils, and carrot. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the lentils are soft, about 30 minutes.
3. Pour half of the soup into a blender, filling the pitcher no more than halfway full. Hold down the lid of the blender with a folded kitchen towel, and carefully start the blender, using a few quick pulses to get the soup moving before leaving it on to puree. Puree in batches until smooth and pour into a clean pot. Alternately, you can use a stick blender and puree the soup right in the cooking pot. Do not puree all of the soup, leave it a little chunky.
4. Stir in the lemon juice and cilantro, then season to taste with salt. Drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkle of chili powder to serve.

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