Thursday, June 19, 2008

Smoky Lentils with Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Yesterday, I felt like eating something filling and hearty. The day turned dark and tropical-stormy (still 87 degrees though), so a big pot of lentils was exactly the kind of thing I wanted simmering away in my kitchen.

During the week when my husband travels for work, I often eat vegetarian meals because I don't feel like going to the trouble of wrangling meat for myself (as if I'm out killing fresh chickens like Renee Zellweger in Cold Mountain). Anyway, I might do something with fish, but otherwise it's mainly vegetables, beans, pasta and grains for me (and eggs--I'm a fool for eggs lately).

With the hot summer weather, I haven't thought about lentils in awhile, but they are one of my favorite easy dinners. I love them in soups or alongside chicken sausage or salmon. Unlike other legumes, there's no pre-soaking, and they cook in about half an hour.

Lentils are hearty fare, but to make them a true main course, I added diced sweet potatoes that I roasted separately and added at the end. You could add a bit more broth and simmer the potatoes with the lentils, but roasting makes them nicely browned on the outside and gives you the chance to season them separately.

I find that brown lentils have a sort of natural earthy sweetness by themselves, which I played up by adding smoky cumin and mild chile powder. To balance out all the sweetness, I made my favorite green--deliciously bitter broccoli raab--to eat on the side. I wasn't planning to share this simple everyday meal on the blog, but it was so tasty, I had to.

Smoky Lentils with Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Okay, I didn't go totally vegetarian--I used chicken broth. But, I would just as readily use vegetable broth, especially since I started buying the Kitchen Basics brand. Their dark, rich vegetable broth is head and shoulders above other supermarket brands, and their broths have less sodium too. I didn't measure my spices when I made this, so I'm giving estimates here. For the lentils, just use a bit more cumin than chile, and feel free to adjust.

Serves 4

For the potatoes:
cooking spray
2 to 3 sweet potatoes (about 1 pound when peeled)
Mild red chile powder to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the lentils:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 large red onion, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 or 4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon mild chile powder
2 2/3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup brown lentils

To make the potatoes, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and coat with cooking spray. Pile on the sweet potatoes, coat them with cooking spray (you could use olive oil for this, but I was going for low-cal and fast) and season with chile powder, salt and pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes, stirring once, or until potatoes are tender and browned in spots.

To make lentils, heat the oil in a large, heavy saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook until soft and starting to brown. Add the garlic, cumin and chile powder. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring continuously. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Add the lentils, season with salt and pepper (keep it light, you can add more later), and reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until lentils are tender, but not mushy. Stir in the roasted sweet potatoes and serve.


Peabody said...

It does look very hearty and comforting.

Mallika said...

Looks very comforting. hey eat something similar in Peru with chunks of pork in it.

SarahKate said...

This looks great and combines two of my favourite foods in the world. It's winter here in Australia so this might just be the perfect Monday night dinner!

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