I'm partial to red lentils. I have a lot of fun with them and find them to be incredibly easy to work with. Sometimes I saute them and sometimes I just simmer them bland and use them in many different ways, sweet and savory alike, but there's nothing like a savory, rich and thick bowl of red lentil stew, especially on a chilly day. It's flavorful, filling, packed full of nutrients and second to none. Here's one of the many ways you can use to prepare them to make your best first impression on your most valued and honored guests and clients.
I like my stews to be succulent, meaty, full of massive flavor and present well.
To do this you're going to need a few items:
4 cups red lentils [soaked and drained]
1 of each: red, green, yellow and orange bell pepper [halved & chopped]
2 onions large & chopped [preferably brown]
1 heaping tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp mesquite seasoning
5 cloves chopped garlic
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt [to taste]
1 can of additive-free coconut milk [preferably Thai Kitchen brand - optional]
1 - 2 cups soy cheese [optional]
1 lb of organic extra firm tofu [frozen and thawed]
1 heaping tbsp pale ale mustard
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 cup marinara sauce
3 tbsp sweetener [maple syrup, blackstrap molasses, honey, palm sugar, evaporated cane juice, etc. - just make sure it's natural and agrees with you.]
3 tbsp fresh minced herbs [mint, dill, parsley and/or basil]
Liquid [Hickory] Smoke
This is going to be so simple it's going to blow you mind!
Put your skillet on the heat and add your olive oil, 1 onion and salt. Saute until they become translucent and take on a sweet aroma. This is when they begin to caramelize and the heat starts transforming the sulfur into sugar. Add the cumin, crumbled tofu, salt, mesquite seasoning and stir until the the tofu starts to brown, then add fennel seeds. Stir until the tofu becomes firm like ground meat and add your minced herbs, marinara sauce, mustard, liquid smoke and sweetener. Cook down until the liquids are absorbed, tofu is firm and separates and glazed over. Now put it aside. You can pop it in the fridge and use it the following day for a complete marriage of flavors or you can use it immediately in the next step with the lentils. Your choice.
In a stock pot add your olive oil, remaining onion, salt and bell peppers [half of each]. Saute everything until onions caramelize. Add garlic, stir and infuse the oil with it. Fold in lentils and saute on medium add coconut milk [optional] stir and add water [enough to cover lentils by 1" - 2" inches [depending on how thick you want it] and let simmer until lentils soften and break down. Whisk for a more bisque-like texture, incorporate cheese and reserved tofu, cook for 10 more minutes, or until desired consistency is reached and serve with crackers, bagel chips, a nice hot right-out-of-the-oven piece of corn bread, toast, a platter of fresh herbs, whatever your heart desires.
Garnish with fresh herbs and tomatoes, either cut over top of it or on the side of the bowl in a decorative display to make the lentil stew jump out of the bowl at you.
Now you're ready to go! Bon Appetitt!
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As always, it's been great sharing with you. Until next time...