Lentil Stew with Winter Vegetables

This is actually recipe number two of lentils week.  Last night I made Jane Brody’s lentil soup and delivered most of it this morning to my mom’s where everyone is sick.  I’ve made it before so rather than post it for just some minor changes (like adding one can of beef broth because I ran out of chicken stock and omitting the turmeric) I’ll just refer you to the first posting of that yummy and very freezable lentil soup.  Tonight is a vegetarian lentil stew.  I’ll admit I was VERY skeptical.  I just didn’t think this would taste like very much.  Turns out it tastes mostly like the vegetables and that absolutely does not suck.

Of course I made some substitutions.  I got a late start tonight so I used an acorn squash instead of butternut.  The butternut squash I got in my Relay Foods order today is huge and I didn’t need that much.  I left out the beets because I didn’t have any fresh ones.  I used chopped fresh collards instead of kale because I don’t like the ruffly edges in kale.  I think you could just as easily use turnip greens instead which is handy if your turnips still have their greens attached.  In fact, I’d probably chop the beet greens and throw those in too.  I did use French lentils.  They’re a little smaller than the regular green ones you find in the store, but they maintain a nice al dente texture just the same. 

Don’t be put off by how this looks as it goes together.  I was a little concerned when the lentils, squash and turnips went in the pot and the water turned kind of gray.  This is a stew so the water is almost entirely absorbed.  The turnips end up being really soft and buttery.  The lentils are a little nutty.  A little sweet from the acorn squash.  A little earthy green from the collards and a little crunch from the lightly cooked baby carrots.  The combination of textures is really lovely.  And the vegetables pretty much taste like themselves.  Here’s the kicker though.  The goat cheese is amazing. 

The recipe recommends goat cheese crumbles because they keep their shape.  I think that would be good.  I love the tanginess of goat cheese crumbles like you get in the grocery store.  It tends to catch me behind the ears a little.  You know what I mean.  That said tonight I used a completely different kind of goat cheese.  My Relay Foods order this week included some Monocacy Silver Soft Ripened Goat Cheese from Cherry Glen Goat Cheese Co.  From now on this cheese should be referred to as ambrosia.  Seriously.  It’s kind of Brie reminiscent.  It’s very soft and has a rind with a lot of sharpness to it.  The cheese itself is tangy in a very subtle way.  A-MAZ-ING.  Really, get some.  You’ll have to pause for a moment of silence.  This cheese melts completely so the lovely tangy flavor is evenly distributed throughout the stew.  It’s very subtle, but an absolutely critical finishing touch.  It adds extra creaminess to the texture and some real depth to the flavor.  It enhances the flavor of the vegetables without overshadowing them at all.  Maybe it’s magic cheese…

All in all this stew FAR surpassed my expectations.  I only made a half a recipe.  That’ll be fine since I have several more lentil recipes on the list, but I can honestly say I’ll be a little sad when it’s gone.  And that’s high praise.

Good? Really good.  Really.  I’m not kidding.
Easy? Yes, but not quick. Lots of chopping.
Good for company? Not exactly.
Special shopping? I’ve never seen French lentils in my local Kroger, but you can probably find them at a store with a big bulk foods section.

Lentil Stew with Winter Vegetables

Ingredients

1 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup French green lentils
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 small turnips, scrubbed, peeled and cut into 1/2-in. cubes (about 1 cup)
1 cup cubed acorn squash (1/2-in. cubes)
2 cups stemmed, chopped collards
7-10 baby carrots, quartered
1/4 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
2 ounces aged goat cheese (such as Chevrot or Bûcheron, cut into small pieces)

Directions

1. Heat olive oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, lentils, salt, pepper, thyme, and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Add turnips and squash and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, 20 minutes.
2. Add collards and carrots and cook 10 minutes, or until vegetables are tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from heat and stir in parsley and goat cheese. Serve immediately, accompanied by crusty bread.
Note: Semifirm aged goat cheese, available at most cheese counters, has an assertive flavor that pairs well with winter greens and root vegetables. Its firmer texture holds up well when heated.

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