Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Happy New Year! Lentil Stew over Yellow Rice

Happy New Year!

Hope all is going well for everyone and you greet the year with great happiness and health!  I think this is the first year I have not actually written down any resolutions.  I have written them down since I was in my teens.  I know all of my resolutions and feel like I may actually have a greater chance of accomplishing them if I don't write them down and keep looking at them obsessively.  Cooking-wise, I definitely want to use my cookbooks a lot more, cook more healthfully and get in a lot more testing for Hubbs and my future cafe!  I'm just finishing taking some antibiotics (I always try not to take them and am so bummed when I end up having to!), which wreaked havoc on my digestive system at the end of last year and am just feeling better.  So I wanted to make something rather simple to digest, that didn't contain lots of spices or oil. 

So, thinking about the fact that I really need to start using my cookbooks, I went through several of them and found this base recipe from the Candle Cafe's cookbook, which I have had since way back when I was living in Michigan.  I was going through one of my plentiful phases of deciding to prepare every recipe (or at least the realistically decent sounding ones) in every cookbook I possess.  There are tons believe me!  One day I will inventory and count them, I swear!  Until then, I will just go to my shelf of cookbooks, select a book and find a recipe that I have most of the ingredients to prepare.  And today it just happened to be the Candle Cafe's cookbook.  I have made about half of the recipes in that cookbook by the way, with varying degrees of success and happiness.  Some recipes work and are very tasty and some look disgusting and unrealistic just by reading the ingredients - and then turn out disgustingly of course!  But for the most part, most of the cooked (not the baked) recipes are pretty good. 

This recipe was nice and simple, nice and tasty and really hit the spot for something hearty and filling.  And of course I modified it to suit my tastes.  You could easily make is as spicy as you want, which is what I would do on pretty much any day, but today my stomach didn't feel like making it spicy.  Funny story about looking at the picture I took for this recipe too.  Back when I was working at Vegan Divas as the Executive Pastry Chef, I would normally bring my food from home because where the kitchen was located (Long Island City, Queens) is extremely lacking in food, especially of the vegan variety.  Pretty much the only option is Subway.  I worked at a Subway for years when I was back in Michigan by the way and I will still eat there, if that is consolation, although I only have ever gotten the veggie sub, so ....  I have also worked at an Applebee's, also in Michigan and would not send anyone in my family there, so I'm sure you get it! 

Anyway, back to the kitchen in LIC.  One day I forgot/was too busy to pack my lunch, so Chico, one of he owners of the location we rented told me he would order some Spanish food for me - just yellow rice and cooked lentils - absolutely no meat.  Ok, just this once I was thinking.  It ended up setting me back about $10, and  I was eating some of the rice on its own, then opened the top off of the lentils.  My first spoonful came with a piece of a metal cleaning scrubby *gratis*.  Yuck!  Chico was horrified, saying that he had ordered from them for months and nothing of the sort had happened.  Just my luck I guess.  Just goes to show that I should always bring my lunch!  Anyway, try this - it is amazing, and no metal scrubbies!

Lentil Stew over Yellow Rice:

Hearty Lentil Stew over Yellow Rice

Serves 4-6

Yellow Rice:
2 cups white rice, rinsed
2 tablespoons annatto oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 cups water

Lentil Stew:
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup medium diced onion
1/4 cup medium diced celery
1/4 cup medium diced carrot
1 cup green lentils, rinsed and picked through

1 cup medium diced peeled potato
1 1/2 cups medium diced butternut squash
1 cup medium diced tomato
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon vegetable boullion powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste

4 cups filtered water

1.  Start preparing the lentil stew first.  In a large pot over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and allow to become hot.  Add the onions, carrots and celery.  Cook, stirring frequently, until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. 
2.  To the pot, add the lentils, potatoes, butternut squash and diced tomato.  Cook, stirring periodically for about five minutes, or as long as it takes you to gather the spices. 
3.  Add the sea salt, thyme, boullion and black pepper.  Stir to coat.  Add the tomato paste and also stir to coat. 
4.  Add the filtered water and lower heat to medium-low.  Cook uncovered, stirring periodically until lentils and vegetables have softened, but not become mushy. 
5.  While the stew is cooking, prepare the rice.  In a medium pot over medium heat, add the annatto oil and allow to become hot.  Once it is hot, add the rinsed rice and toast, stirring frequently until the rice is no longer wet.  Add the sea salt and water.  Cover the pot with a lid, lower the heat to low and allow to cook until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes.
6.  Season the stew to taste and serve a potion of the stew over top of the cooked yellow rice. 



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