It's supposed to be 60* tomorrow and Thursday. And sunny. And the tulips, daffodils, and sorrel are coming up, and the hellebores are blooming. Spring is returning to us again.
Buuuuut...today is still in the 40's. Warm, comforting stews are still a safe and tasty bet. I'm working on leftovers and freezer and pantry supplies again, trying to whittle them down before all the fresh stuff starts coming in for our Spring Treat Share. Today's challenge: sprouting potatoes from the pantry, and leftover leg of lamb and chopped kale, both pulled from the freezer. I've been wanting lentils lately (I don't think my 15 year old self would recognize me...) so I combined the lamb and kale with a recipe from The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook, by Jack Bishop. I tell you, if I had to give up meat, this is the book I'd cook my way through first. My mouth waters more every time I turn a page.
The recipe is "Spicy Lentils with Tomatoes and Aromatic Vegetables." I'll give you the basic recipe, and weave in my additions and suggestions so you can play to your heart's content. The recipe as it stands is earthy and warm, with a little fresh zing from the parsley (or recommended basil-if-you-have-it). The lentils have just enough bite to feel like you're chewing something, and the tomatoes add their acidic sweetness. It really didn't need anything I added to it.
But it was good with all that stuff, too.
Spicy Lentils with Tomatoes and Aromatic Vegetables
from The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook by Jack Bishop, with additions by me
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, minced (I didn't go crazy with the mincing--just tried to make the vegetables a little larger than the lentils)
1 medium carrot, peeled and minced
1 celery rib, minced
2 medium cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups drained canned whole tomatoes, chopped (I used my homemade canned tomato sauce, 2 cups)
1 1/2 cups brown lentils (I lowered this to 1 cup)
pinch of cayenne (I used about a 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper, but might add both next time--we like the heat)
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley leaves (or basil, or both)
salt, to taste
2 cups potatoes, peeled and diced small
2 cups chopped, cooked kale
2 cups chopped, cooked leg of lamb
juice of half a lemon
1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and saute over medium heat until softened, about ten minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for one minute more, or until slightly softened. (If using the potatoes, add them with the garlic and cook an additional 3-5 minutes, just to get them going.)
2. Add the tomatoes, lentils, cayenne, kale, if using, and 4 cups of water (I started with three, since I had the juicy tomatoes, but wound up adding almost the full other cup to keep the dish a little brothy as it simmered). Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer gently, stirring occasionally. If using the lamb, add it in after the pan has reduced to the simmer. (I put a lid on it at this point, though the recipe doesn't call for it.) Cook until the lentils are tender and the liquid in the pan is almost evaporated, about 30 minutes.
3. Stir in the herb(s) and salt to taste, and stir in the lemon juice. Serve immediately.
We had to laugh--the dish was to help clean out the pantry/freezer. But this made enough to feed 5-6 people, so a serving went back into the freezer after we portioned out our lunches. Oh well, I can't be sad about having food stored away!