I make a variation of this dish quite often and especially now that we are looking at a very loooong and cold winter coming our way, it will probably go into heavy rotation around here. The constants are the lentils and some type of green; what varies are the other veggies and spices.
This time I went the Indian route, which gives a nice spicy kick to the hearty and basic veggies. If that’s not your style, you can go more Provençal with thyme, bay leaves and rosemary. And now that I think about it, this stew is also pretty similar to the yummy hambone lentil soup my mom always had waiting for us after skiing (minus the hambone, mind you). No wonder I like it so much. I’m a sucker for a Proustian food memory…
Lentil & Swiss Chard Stew
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
2 carrots, finely diced
2 stalks celery, finely diced
1 large potato (I used an Idaho), peel and diced
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon garam masala*
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
1 cup lentils, picked over and rinsed
1 quart vegetable stock
3-4 cups Swiss chard, stems and big ribs removed, coarsely sliced into ribbons
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a heavy stockpot. Sauté the onion for a few minutes until translucent. Add the carrots and cook for another 2-3 minutes and then repeat with the celery. Add the potatoes and then the spices, including salt, cook for another 5 minutes or so. Add the lentils and then the stock. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat. Cover partially and simmer until the lentils are soft but not mushy, about 25 minutes. Stir in the chard and cook just until wilted, but still bright green. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper if necessary.
* Garam masala is a traditional Indian spice mixture consisting of some or all of the following: black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, cloves, ginger, star anise and nutmeg. The mix I used contained the first 6 spices.