Lentil and Sausage Stew
It’s interesting to see what products people have been stockpiling amid the coronavirus outbreak. It seems that the hot commodities in the midst of the pandemic are toilet paper and pasta. I understand the toilet paper but I don’t think pasta is the most nutritious choice despite how easy is it to make. I never realized that most pasta brands come in blue boxes until my daughter in Seattle noticed that all the blue pasta boxes were gone from the supermarket shelves, while the yellow boxes of gluten free pasta were still available. Gluten free pastas are often made from healthy ingredients such as brown rice, chickpeas, quinoa or vegetables and are very nutritious.
I’d suggest taking a vegetarian’s approach to filling your pantry during these trying times – look for non-meat options that are high in protein such as eggs and dairy products (cheese and yogurt), nuts, seeds, beans and lentils.
Beans, such as kidney beans, black beans or chickpeas can be purchased either canned or dried. The little inexpensive one-pound packages of dried beans are even more nutritious than their canned counterparts because they contain no sodium. Dried beans should be rinsed and pre-soaked before cooking. With most folks working from home, it’s easy to remember to presoak the beans for supper.
This certainly isn’t the time for opulent recipes or elaborate meals. Over the next few weeks I plan to post recipes that are easy to make with ingredients that many folks will have on hand. The concept of “la cucina povera” (Italian for the frugal kitchen) invented by necessity, makes the most out of humble ingredients and teaches us not to waste any food. I think this is extremely important right now. So look before you toss – that last little bit of mustard in the jar can become a tasty vinaigrette and even the brine in the jar of olives can be used to brighten the flavor of a recipe. I’d suggest saving anything that can be repurposed.
Lentils are one of my favorite foods. In our house they are a great comfort food – filling and easy to make. Aside from the common green, brown, red or black lentils, there are many varieties that are used to make dahls, one of the staple foods in the Indian subcontinent. Whereas dried beans often require a full day of soaking, most lentils don’t have to be soaked before cooking.
Rummaging around my freezer the other day I found a package with half-a-link of chourico sausage. That was just enough to give great flavor to a simple lentil stew. If you don’t have any chourico or linguica, you can easily substitute some kielbasa or Italian sausage. My recipe is very filling and was enough to make six servings. The stew was even more delicious the following day when the flavors melded and the lentils continued to thicken the sauce. You can also freeze the leftovers.
LENTIL and SAUSAGE STEW
1 lb. bag, dried green or brown lentils
½ link chourico sausage, diced (I like Gaspars brand)
Extra virgin olive oil
½ cup diced onion
1 garlic clove, minced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon dried herbes de Provence
1 large Yukon gold potato, diced (optional)
Rise the lentils in a colander and carefully pick through them to make sure that there are no little stones among the lentils. Set aside.
In a soup pot, sauté the chourico until lightly browned. If necessary, add a little olive oil to prevent burning. You want the chourico to release as much of its flavorful oil as possible.
Add the onion to the pot and continue cooking until the onion is soft. Add the garlic and continue sautéing on low heat for another minute.
Put the carrots, potatoes, lentils and herbes de Provence in the pot and add enough water to cover the ingredients by two inches. Stir to combine, then let the stew simmer for 45 minutes. Check periodically to make sure there is still enough water in the pot – adding more if necessary. The lentils will continue to plump as they cook. After 45 minutes, test to make sure the lentils are tender.
You can add a bit of spice to the stew with a dash of green tabasco sauce or some smoked paprika. For a vegetarian version, skip the sausage and add some chopped greens such as spinach or kale to the final ten minutes of cooking.