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Abrazos! xox Penny

Friday, November 12, 2010

Chock full

Even though it is still warm here (are we over summer yet, Mother Nature?), I have had the soup pot out for weeks. I love soups and stews, especially ones that are a little complex. Bubbly, richly textured and aromatic layers of all kinds of veggies, whole grains, legumes and spices are my favorites.

This recipe is one I make when the kids are home, when I am going to a potluck, the night before Thanksgiving or Christmas or when I want to have a couple of dinners and lunches on hand. It is a playful recipe that you add more fun twists to as you make it again and again.  It is also a recipe chock full of healthful spices...eight as a matter of fact...that play well together and play well with two herbs, parsley and cilantro. As an ensemble cast of legumes, whole grains, veggies and spices, this stew is nutritionally an award winner, a hard to top meal in a pot.

For a really festive and flavorful menu, I would serve Syrian Roasted Red Pepper Dip (November 1, 2010 post) as a starter, the stew along with a leafy green salad dressed with a citrus or ginger vinaigrette and for dessert, this apple tart I'm working on! Enjoy! There are some tips below but here is the first one. This recipe is long, but easy!! Don't be hesitant to make it.

Moroccan Lentil Stew

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup dried chickpeas, soaked in water overnight
8 cups homemade or low-sodium store-bought vegetable stock (I use low sodium)
4 cups water
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro, plus 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped 
3 teaspoons coarse salt
4 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 can "fire roasted" tomatoes with juice (Muir Glen is a nice brand for these)
1 cup yellow lentils, rinsed (I use red lentils as well...whichever one I have on hand) 
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 2-3 inch cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
5 ounces orzo (I use whole wheat orzo)
1/2 cup chopped, pitted dates
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus whole leaves for garnish
1 lemon, cut into wedges

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add cinnamon stick and heat for a few minutes. Remove and set aside. Add onion, and cook 5 minutes. Add chickpeas, stock, and water, and simmer until tender, about 45 minutes.

Mash garlic, finely chopped cilantro, and salt into a paste*. Add this garlic paste, celery, tomatoes, lentils, tomato paste, lemon juice, and spices, including saved cinnamon, stick to pot. Simmer until lentils are tender, 30 to 40 minutes.

Add pasta and dates, and cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta is al dente, about 10 minutes. Stir in coarsely chopped cilantro and parsley. Garnish with parsley leaves, and serve with lemon wedges. Serves 6-8

*I will be talking more about salt "pastes" in an upcoming Salt Workshop. Stay tuned.


1. I prefer dried chickpeas to canned hands down but do feel free to used canned if you find them easier. Be sure to rinse well. If using canned, simmer about 10 minutes instead of 45.

2. I prefer yellow or red lentil for this dish, not green.

3. Feel free to use fresh tomatoes, 3-4 will do it

4. I prefer to dry roast all spices and grind as need. If you are not familiar with how to do this and missed my spice class (!), use ground spices that you buy in small quantities from a reliable spice market. is a good online source. You can also use fresh ginger in place of dried, using the 3:1 ratio of fresh to dried.

5. Use whole wheat orzo or brown rice versus regular for more nutritional value

6. Try using coconut oil for the oil and serving with orange slices instread of lemon

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