Earlier this week I got a happy little surprise at work: a $40 gift card for Giant Eagle for doing a good job! I don’t live near a Giant Eagle, but just a short bus ride away is a fancy-shmancy Market District one. I’ll just be honest here and tell you that I spent well over $40. There were so many things! Bulk bins full of seeds and beans and spices! Some of the prices were on the high side, but there were also plenty of things I wouldn’t be able to get at my local Shop N Save like red lentils, wheat berries, fennel seeds, and coriander. It was very exciting. The sale items were great too, like $.89/lb for kale and collards and $.99 boxes of mushrooms. By the time I had gotten through half the store (didn’t even get to the frozen foods), I was starving and had to quickly come up with a hearty, guest-worthy dinner for two that would cook up fast since I turn into an angry beast when I get hungry. Inspiration struck in the maze that was the produce section, so I stuffed my canvas bags to the brim and hauled them home on the bus with a little help from my handsome man-friend.
Dinner was to be baked potatoes, sauteed beet greens, and this red lentil soup. All chosen for ease and speed of cooking. I turned on the oven and started the water boiling before I even unpacked the bags. While the lentils simmered, I chopped the sweets and onions. Once the sweet potatoes were in the pot, I sauteed a shallot for the greens and washed them well (beet greens are impressively dirty). All the while, russets were baking in the oven. Altogether, the entire meal took less than an hour to prepare and we were satisfied before I got too hangry.
This is a warm, filling stew that is perfect for crisp autumn weather.
Red Lentil and Sweet Potato Stew
2 cups red lentils
2 medium onions
1 large or 2 medium sweet potatoes
1 bay leaf
1 inch piece of fresh ginger
I think I used about half a teaspoon each of cardamom, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, red pepper flakes, and smoked paprika. Use what you have. Curry would also be good in this soup.
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Start by bringing a large pot of water to a boil, with the bay leaf in it. Once it’s boiling, add the lentils and simmer.
2. While the lentils are cooking, peel and finely mince the ginger and add it to the pot. Then peel and dice the onion and sweet potato and add them. Put in all the spices, 1/4 teaspoon at a time. Let it cook a little longer before adding an additional 1/4 tsp or more of all or just some of the spices according to your taste.
3. Simmer the whole thing for about 40 minutes beginning to end, or for as long as it takes for the lentils and sweet potatoes to soften and the spices to blend. This is even better leftover because the flavors continue to develop, so feel free to double it to eat all week.
Note about the spices: If you have the time and feel like dirtying another pan, toast the spices in a skillet over medium-high heat for a minute or so before you add them to the stew. They taste better that way. I was too hungry to think about it at the time, but it really does add to the flavor of the soup.
This stew is pretty hearty and would be great served with pitas and a green salad rather than baked potatoes and cooked greens.