I love the culture of a shared meal. I used to be all about dining out at restaurants, but I have come to prefer a night in with friends, sharing a meal around the table. I feel at home amongst the half empty wine bottles strewn about the table, that stack of dishes piled high in the background and the comfort of knowing that we can stay as long as we like. When I first moved here, I would stress and fuss about what to cook when friends and family would come over for dinner. Getting all worked up because I didn't know what to serve with l'apero, or if I had bought the right wine to serve with the meal or if my style of cooking would please their french appetites. I didn't have the courage to cook up a completely vegetarian meal, or heaven forbid serve a cheese plate as an appetizer. I guess I was scared to take a risk, and I wanted everything to be perfect.
But what I've realized since is that the best part of eating in is that it doesn't have to be perfect. In fact, its the imperfections that make the meal so nice. So no, the table doesn't get cleared right away - yes, I burned the dessert, and no, there isn't any meat in this stew. Humble and simple is always the way to go. I now serve up whatever food I like, sticking with vegetables most of the time because frankly I cook them much better than I do meat, and well, I have yet to have someone run out of the house screaming because I served red wine with a cheese fondu.
This stew is really hearty and full of flavor, and has pleased some of the biggest meat eaters I know. It can be made the morning of or even the night before, and the longer it marinates together the better the flavor is. Bring it to the table in the pot and serve it up with a big salad and some crusty bread for family style meal and enjoy your evening shared amongst friends.
Vegetable Green Lentil Stew
This might seem like a long list of ingredients, but most you probably already have in your fridge and pantry. The longest part of making this stew is chopping all the vegetable, so once that is done its pretty much just a waiting game in a yummy smelling kitchen. Its a really versatile recipe, throw in whatever veggies you have in the fridge or change up the herbs and flavorings, and serve with whatever wine you like! Bon apetit!
This lists of ingredients serves 2 with leftovers, but double or triple to feed how ever many people are coming over for dinner.
- 2 gloves garlic, crushed
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
- 1 leek stalk (white and light green part only), thinly sliced
- 2 cups sliced white button mushrooms
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- Olive Oil
- Balsamic Vinegar
- 2 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
- Pinch Red Pepper Flakes
- 3 large bay leaves
- 1 400g/425ml can crushed tomatoes
- 3/4 Cup French Green Lentils (Lentils du Puy), or lentils of your choice
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 2 cups packed greens - spinach, kale, chard, etc.
- Optional toppings - fresh chives and pine nuts
What to do
- Rinse the lentils and set them aside
- Add a couple lugs of olive oil to a large pot over medium heat, add the garlic and onion and cook until fragrant and tender
- Add in the celery and leeks and cook for a minute or two and then add in the mushrooms and bell pepper. Cook all the vegetables together over high heat (stirring often and adding a pinch of salt to help the mushrooms release their water) until they start to brown and soften, then add a splash of balsamic vinegar to de-glaze the pan. Cook off the vinegar and then turn the heat down low
- Add in the herbs, some fresh cracked pepper and canned tomatoes and let simmer together for a few minutes. Add the rinsed lentils, stock, and enough water so that everything is covered in liquid and bring to a boil. Let it boil on high for a few minutes and then reduce to a medium heat (slow boil) for about 25 minutes or until the lentils are tender (different lentils may have different cooking times). Try not to overcook the lentils. You may need to add more water as the lentils are cooking, depending on what kind of stew you like - more liquid will give the stew more broth.
- Once the lentils are cooked, turn off the heat and add in the greens. I like to add them in right at the end so they keep a bit of their freshness, but if you want them more wilted add them in earlier. Taste and season with salt and pepper.