Monday, January 18, 2010

Tuscan Stew

I love lentils. They are tasty little legumes that pack a powerful nutrition punch. High in fiber, protein, folate, iron, potassium, folate, and manganese they are quick cooking and easy to use in a wide variety of dishes and cuisines. Lentils, referred to in Indian cuisine as daal, come in a number of different colors/types. There are the traditional brown lentils that most of us see at the grocery store however you can also purchase red lentils, which have less fiber, the dark French green, yellow and a type called Masoor which are brown on the outside but red on the inside. When combined with a grain, such as rice, you get a complete protein as all of the essential amino acids are present.

This recipe is one that I created as sort of an Italian style ratatouille, a French peasant stew. I substituted the lentils for the eggplant to give a protein boost and it's a great variation. Served over polenta with a side of spinach sauteed with garlic, lemon and italian spices it makes a fabulous meal. The leftovers, if there are any, are even better than the original because the flavors continue to mellow and combine even after cooking.

Tuscan Stew

1 C. lentils rinsed and picked over
1 onion chopped small
3 cloves garlic minced
3 zucchini cut into 1/2" slices
1 bell pepper diced
3 tomatoes diced
1 1/2 t. Italian herbs
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
2 T. olive oil
2 1/2 C. vegetable stock

In a stock pot heat olive oil and saute onion and garlic until onion is starting to soften
add the herbs and bell pepper and saute one more minute
add remaining ingredients and simmer on med-low until lentils are done, about 30 minutes
you may need another 1/2 C. of stock
salt to taste
serve over polenta and top with fresh grated parmesan cheese


1 C. cornmeal (I prefer fresh ground but you can use storebought)
1 t. salt
3 C. water

bring water and salt to a boil
reduce water to a simmer
very slowly add cornmeal (this is important to avoid lumps)
cook approximately 20 minutes until mixture thickens
remove from heat and pour into a pie plate (for triangles) or a cake pan (for squares)
let polenta set for 10-15 minutes
cut and serve

Edit: Carol wrote in and shared her method for making polenta "I put the mixture into the top of a double boiler and then don't need to keep stirring or even to check it, until it is about ready and it does not scorch if I don't check right on time."

I plan to try this the next time I make polenta


photo courtesy of Justin Cormack : wikimedia commons

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