I grew up with the aroma of lentil and split pea soup filling the house on cold, slushy Sunday mornings. It smelled similar to the holidays, but with a twist that felt exotic. I was NOT adventurous in the food department as a child. (Read: there was a solid 8 months where I requested cold cereal every night for dinner because… ew salmon croquettes.) So despite the fantastic spice and warmth that blanketed the house, I never ate it.
Until I did. Around my early teens, food very abruptly became of great interest and importance in my life and my feelings on stews and other non-cold-cereal dishes transitioned. This recipe is an adaptation of my mom’s soup, minus a few veggies (she liked ALL the veggies), plus the Put An Egg On It lesson I learned later. It's one of the easiest dishes to make for a crowd ahead of time, and the fact that lentils are believed to symbolize good luck for the new year makes it even more fitting. And when those crazy New Year's Eves are played out and you decide to have the crew over in cozy sweats for cozy cocktails... THIS.
I like red lentils because they are slightly sweeter than the green. (I also love the baby belugas.) Try this stew with our ILA smoked paprika, which imparts a sweet earthiness that’s perfect with the reds. If you choose to add curry, go for the ILA madras curry, which combines (ya ready?) curry leaf, turmeric, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaves, fenugreek, allspice, black pepper, cayenne and crushed red pepper. It’s a fragrant addition that, as follows, is optional, but adds a subtle boldness. And the vinegar at the end brings that bright, necessary balance of acidity.
This recipe serves 4-6 people. Even if you aren’t cooking for that many, trust me and make the whole recipe, because leftovers – especially smoky, hearty STEW leftovers – make for the easiest and easily the coziest dinner tomorrow, and the day after, and if you’re lucky, maybe even the day after that.
Stewed Red Lentils with Tomatoes, Collard Greens and a Soft Egg
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large yellow onions, diced large
4 carrots, diced large
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28-ounce) can peeled whole plum tomatoes, coarsely pulsed in a food processor, with juice
1 large bunch collard greens, thick stems removed, chopped roughly
1 cup red lentils, rinsed and picked over
2 cups vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon madras curry (optional)
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
Fresh eggs (1 egg per person)
Baguette, sliced into even pieces on an angle (1 slice per person) (3 slices per person if your guests are anything like me)
1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions and carrots and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions turn translucent and begin to brown. Add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.
2. Add the tomatoes, lentils, broth, bay leaf, paprika, curry, cayenne, thyme, salt and pepper to the pan. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and bring to a simmer. Add the greens. Cover and cook until the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.
3. While the lentils cook, make the toast and the eggs. Preheat oven to 450°F. Brush the baguette slices with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Toast in the oven for about 5 minutes.
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Gently add the eggs and cook for 6 minutes. Drain and run under cold water for a minute. Peel and set aside.
4. Come back to the lentils. Once tender, turn off the heat, but leave the lentils sit for about 15 minutes. Add the vinegar, stir and season with more salt and pepper to taste.
5. Ladle the lentils into bowls. Slice open the eggs length-wise, season with salt and pepper and place on top of the lentils. Top each with a slice of bread, and serve extra bread on the side for dunking. (The dunk is mandatory.)
7. And tomorrow, enjoy!
8. And the day after, enjoy!