Dec 302012

Red lentil stew with quinoa

This recipe came to me by way of a dear friend and backpacking/adventure buddy. About a year ago, Heather and I had kicked the planning for our six-day Grand Canyon rim-to-rim-to-rim backpacking adventure into high gear and had begun to draft a menu so that I had plenty of time to cook and dehydrate all of our dinners. I was basing much of the menu off of that summer’s Denali menu, but because the Grand Canyon adventure was longer, I needed more meal ideas. Heather suggested this chili, and I was impressed by its credentials. Her husband, a weirdly picky eater, loved it, so I decided to make a test batch.

Now, my husband is not a weirdly picky eater (he’ll eat anything I put in front of him — even the most fail-y of my experiments), but he isn’t normally so vocal about food that he enjoys. He repeatedly enthusiastically complimented it, so I knew I had a winner on my hands. That’s right: it got the stamp of Manproval from both of our husbands! So by all means, hurry up and try this yourself — your taste-buds will thank you!

Red lentil stew with quinoa

For guidance on making this for dehydration, see the “Variations” section at the end of the recipe.

Indian-spiced red-lentil stew with quinoa and collards
Adapted from a recipe on Cheeseburger in Glacial Ice
Serves 8

If you don’t have a spice grinder, you can still make this. Just toast the ground spices in a dry skillet, then proceed with step three.
Butter is my cooking-fat of choice for this dish. The Indians often use butter (or ghee) to bloom spices to great effect, which is something I’ve attempted to replicate here.
1 cup red lentils, picked-over and rinsed
2 cups vegetable stock, divided
2 cups water, divided
Salt, to taste
1 teaspoon EACH whole cumin, coriander, and mustard seed
1 teaspoon EACH turmeric, curry powder, and chili powder, divided
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
4-6 tablespoons olive oil, butter, or virgin coconut oil (or a mix of the three), divided
1 medium yellow onion, diced thinly
2 large carrots, sliced length-wise, then sliced length-wise again, and finally sliced cross-wise into quarter-circles
2 large stalks celery, sliced thinly
1 large poblano pepper, cut into small dice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tomato, diced (or 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, quartered)
1 cup quinoa
1 small bunch of greens such as collards or kale (about 1/2 pound), washed, stemmed, and torn into bite-sized pieces
Combine the lentils, 1 cup of the water, 1 cup of the stock, a bit of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon each of the curry, turmeric, and chili powder in a pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat so that the lentils are simmering. Cook until most of the liquid id absorbed and the lentils are starting to break down.
In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast the whole spices until fragrant. Grind the whole spices and combine with the other spices.
In another pot, heat 2 tablespoons of the cooking fat over medium heat. Add the spices and bloom in the fat, stirring frequently until very fragrant. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and poblano and saute until on the tender side of tender-crisp, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes are broken down, about 5 minutes.
Add 1 cup of the stock and 1 cup of the water. Bring to a simmer and add the quinoa and the lentils (with their cooking liquid). Simmer until the quinoa is transparent, the lentils are tender (or disintegrated), and excess cooking liquid is gone, leaving a thick stew behind. Stir in the remaining 2-4 tablespoons butter or oil. Fold in the greens so they are just wilted, adjust seasonings, and serve.
This makes a great healthy, filling, and flavorful backpacking meal. To adapt it for dehydration, omit the cooking fat and the spices. If there is excess liquid at the end of the cooking, strain it out, reduce it, and pour it over the stew once it’s on the dehydrator tray. Once dried, add the spices to the stew’s storage container (if you dehydrate the spices with the stew, they will intensify too much and become unpalatable). If you can, bring along some pats of butter or a small jar of olive oil to stir into your stew once it’s been re-hydrated.

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