Lentils, Potatoes, and Tomatoes – So Simple, So Good

The other day when I entered the kitchen to attempt to follow my meal plan for the week, I discovered that despite all my careful planning, I was missing a key ingredient for the dish I planned to make. What’s a Mom of hungry children to do? Divert from the plan is the only answer, but the question is what level of diversion. Rather than coming up with a whole new game plan, I decided to simply make some changes to the recipe based on the ingredients I DID actually have on hand. This is a common strategy on my part, and has nearly always resulted in some level of success. My success at making these change ups is likely because i don’t just replace the missing item with any old thing.( Read here for my suggestions on adapting, changing, and experimenting with recipes in ways that are more likely to create a successful outcome.)

On this particular occasion I was short the chickpeas required to make Chickpeas with Potatoes and Tomatoes according to Deborah Madison’s recipe in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (see my thoughts on Deborah Madison). I know, I know – me out of chickpeas, it’s almost too much to believe, but I tried not to linger on that ridiculous reality and moved quickly to surveying what I DID have available. And what I DID have was some already cooked lentils (always cook extra of staples – see here for why). Yay! I pulled the lentils out as well as the other ingredients and got down to business. It occurred to me that while the lentils were going to play the same nutritional role as the chickpeas (protein, fiber), they are so radically different in size and texture I supposed there may be some consequences for the switch. But I proceeded and just sort of kept my eyes open for things that needed tweaking.

As it turned out, the lentils did give the dish a very different flavor and overall feel. They also seems to take up some of the liquid from the dish, even though they were already cooked, I added to the tomatoes called for in the original recipe and then added some extra seasoning to make up for the additional volume. It was a delicious dish and scored a 75% percent approval rating in our house, Ms. Picky Pants was, not surprisingly, not a fan. I was a simple dish with delicious flavors and while it was nice and warming on a chilly day, I’m told it can also be served cold with lemon wedges and black olives. I have some ideas for summer!

Lentils, Potatoes, and Tomatoes – inspired by Deborah Madison’s Chickpeas, Potatoes, and Tomatoes in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

  • Olive oil for the pan
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 red potatoes, peeled and diced (I went slightly larger than a dice and used the three small russets I had on hand – I also didn’t peel them, I know I’m bad)
  • 2 carrots cut into small rounds (less than 1/2 and inch so they cook in a reasonable amount of time)
  • a pinch to 1/2 t chili powder or smoked paprika, depending on your heat preferences
  • 2 smashed garlic cloves
  • 1 t ground coriander
  • 2 1/2 c diced tomatoes (I used cans and did not drain them)
  • 2 1/2 cups cooked lentils (I used French as that’s what was in the fridge waiting to be used)
  • 1/2 c raw cashews (or 1/2 c more beans)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 c water (or enough to make a broth to simmer in)
  • 1/2 c chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 c chopped parsley

Warm oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until onions are beginning to color – 5 to 10 minutes. Add potatoes, carrots, chili, and garlic and cook for a few more minutes. Add the tomatoes, lentils and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and bring to simmer. Simmer until veggies are tender. About 25-30 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Stir in fresh herbs and cashews if using.

  

We served ours with lemon wedges and quinoa. Absolutely delish!

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Mushroom Gumbo (GF/V)

Don’t know what it’s like in your neck of the woods, but we’ve settled into pretty sustained soup and stew weather around here, which is just fine by me. I could eat soup every day and be totally happy about that. Unfortunately not all the members of my little tribe feel as universally friendly to soup as I do, so I am pretty constantly trying new versions to try to draw the resisters in. This week I thought I’d rely on the appeal of tomato based recipes and try something new. And so we did.

I found a gumbo recipe in my More With Less cookbook, which tends to offer a wide variety of flavor profiles in fairly simple recipes that don’t tend to rely on too many exotic ingredients. Sounds like a good way to go, eh? The original recipe was for chicken gumbo, but I decided to use sautéed mushrooms instead. We often replace meat with lentils or a lentil bulgur mixture, but having had a fair amount of those recently, I thought we’d put the umami of the mushrooms to work for us. The result? An approval rating of 75%, which is an A- for the cook in our house. Yes, we grade on a sliding scale based on reality. This gumbo, while originally called “spicy” was not particularly so, so if that’s your thing you should crank it up a bit in the chili department. On to the gumbo…

Mushroom Gumbo

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  • oil for the pot
  • 1 large sweet onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 2 T flour (I used white whole wheat)
  • 1 large can or box chopped tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 c frozen okra
  • 2/3 c tomato paste
  • 3 c veggie broth or stock
  • 1 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 t pepper
  • 1 1/2 T soy sauce or Bragg’s
  • 1/8 t ground cloves
  • 1/2 t chili powder
  • pinch dried basil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • about 12 oz mushrooms, chopped into rough quarters (I used cremini)
  • 1 T gumbo file (no idea why I had this in the pantry, the original recipe says it is optional)
  • chopped parsley for garnish
  • cooked rice for serving

Warm the oil in a large pot. Add onions and sauté until translucent, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds or so, until the garlic becomes fragrant. Add green pepper and sauté for an additional minute or so. Add 2 T flour and stir in, cook for another minute or so, stirring to prevent the flour mixture from burning. When peppers have begun to grown tender add the rest of the ingredients and bring to gentle boil. Drop heat to a simmer and cook for about 40 minutes.

While stew is simmering, sauté mushrooms in a pan of warm oil with a dash of salt. Let them sit to brown a little – which means don’t turn them too much. When the mushrooms are browned, add to gumbo pot to simmer together. When gumbo is warmed through and flavors have developed, serve over rice with a sprinkle of parsley. Delish!

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