Golden Lentil Stew

By the ends of winter, I am most definitely in need of some color in my life. That’s why I love this recipe, with all its warm yellow and orange hues. It’s not only healthy, but extremely easy on the eyes and the wallet, for that matter. Turmeric lends a rich color to your food and is considered to have numerous potential health benefits from its anti-inflammatory properties, which may include inhibited growth of certain cancers and the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.

Feel free to include some orzo, or some other small shaped pasta to this stew if you desire, but it’s certainly hearty enough without it. If you are unable to find yellow lentils, which are usually sold in specialty Italian and Middle Eastern markets, you could substitute red or orange lentils, however, the consistency of the stew will change slightly. If you prefer to keep this dish strictly vegan, you could always substitute the chicken stock with vegetable stock. Serve with a dollop of thick yogurt and some crusty bread.

Yield: 6-8 servings

5 Tbl. olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled, halved, and chopped into small pieces
1 14 oz. can chickpeas, drained
2 c. chicken stock
6 c. water
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbl. finely chopped fresh cilantro, plus 1 Tbl. coarsely chopped
1 c. yellow lentils
2 Tbl. tomato paste
1- 2″ piece of ginger, peeled and grated
1 Tbl. fresh lemon juice (optional)
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
1 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. ground coriander seeds
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cloves
1/2 c. pitted dates, chopped (optional)
salt, pepper to taste
2 Tbl. parsley, chopped coarsely

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or medium stock pot on medium heat. Add the spices and allow them to simmer in the oil for 1-2 minutes. Add the onion, carrot, and ginger. Allow the vegetables to sautée for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, with a mortar and pestle, mash the garlic and chopped cilantro with a sprinkle of salt into a thick paste. Add the paste and cinnamon stick to the pot, along with the lentils, and give everything a good stir or two. Add the tomato paste, stock, and water. Stir and cover. Allow the stew to cook for about 20 minutes before adding the canned chickpeas. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Cook for another 15-20 minutes. If you so choose, add the chopped dates and lemon juice, and cook for another 5-10 minutes. Add the finely chopped cilantro and parsley. Serve and enjoy! As always, happy eating!

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TDB Homemade: Croutons

Croutons are so quick and easy to make, and they are a perfect use for that day-old stale bread left over from dinner last night.

Directions:

Cut any amount of stale or slightly hardened bread into cubes and place them in a large frying pan over medium heat.  The size to make the croutons is up to you, but I like them to be around 3/4″ x 3/4″ x 1/2″.  Drizzle the cubes with olive oil and toss to coat.  Just a couple tablespoons of oil is sufficient for half of a leftover baguette — you don’t want to drench the bread.  Add flavor — sprinkle with garlic powder, dried or fresh herbs, chili powder, a little salt, freshly grated Parmesano Reggiano…you name it!  Toss the croutons in the pan periodically so that they toast evenly, allowing them to brown slightly and get crunchy.  Depending on how much moisture remains in the bread, this may take as little as 3 minutes, but usually 5-7 minutes is enough for a day-old French baguette (which happens to be my favorite type of bread to convert to croutons).

Croutons can also be made with pre-packaged sliced bread, although the more preservatives the bread contains, the longer it will stay moist, which means it will take longer to crisp up.  With any pre-packaged sliced bread, preservatives or no, a better method of cooking is to toss the bread cubes with oil and flavor ingredients in a large bowl, spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet, and bake them at 250ºF until they are dry and crispy, about 30 minutes.

And that’s it!  So easy, and so delicious.  And like so many other things, homemade croutons taste way better than their pricey, pre-packaged counterparts, which often also contain “mystery ingredients”.  Use your homemade version to top salads or soups, or try them as a tasty snack alternative to chips and crackers.  They will keep pretty well (after cooling) in an airtight container for several days.  But good luck keeping them around that long.  My last batch was gone within hours!