Vegetable and Lentil Ragout
I try to keep most meals healthy. But every now and then I fall off the healthy-eats wagon. Last week I made a deliciously unhealthy Frito Casserole. FRITOS. It was like a enchilada covered with Fritos. Burp. It was wonderful, again, when I reheated it for dinner at work….sigh…
Now I’m back to healthy cooking (for today). Alright, tomorrow. Tonight we had rigatoni and sausages with sauce. But I also made a healthy meal for tomorrow. Vegetable ragout. It starts with the Holy Trinity of cooking: onions, celery, and carrots. How can this be improved? Lentils. Let me take you on the journey…..
I’ve tried to perfect this for a while. Often the lentils just were not quite cooked enough. But I researched and solved the problem. I cooked the lentils before I added them to the ragout. In a 2-quart pan, fill with water, one onion halved and one clove of garlic. Bring the water to a boil and add 1.5 cups of lentils. I have used different kinds of lentils, but tonight I bought a bag of mixed lentils. You can buy small French lentils at Whole Foods. I go to the big bins and buy just what I need. I do this when I make granola too, buying the nuts and seeds I need in the right amount. Speaking of granola, hubby just discovered it and likes it. I guess I will be making it often. Cook the lentils for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain in a mesh colander, so you don’t loose any lentils. While my sauce was cooking for dinner, I cooked the lentils. I had to be by the stove anyways, so I used my time wisely.
Cut one large onion in half moons. After you cut the onion, dice 2 peeled carrots and 2 stalks of celery. Place the carrots and celery in a bowl; place the onion in another. You don’t need fancy shmancy “prep” bowls. I use regular cereal bowls. Place a 4 qt. pan on medium heat. Add olive oil, coating the bottom of the hot pan. Add the onion, carrots and celery. Sauté until they are soft. Always prepare before you cook. I make sure any cans, spices, broths or vegetables are ready to be used and, nearby. Open 2 cans of chicken stock (28 ounces) and one 15 oz. can of petite-diced tomatoes. Mince 2 cloves of garlic and put aside. Salt the onion mixture. It helps draw the water out. It’s important to season as you cook. Once the onion mixture is soft, add 8 oz. of mushrooms and cook until they are soft also. It takes about 5 minutes. Salt again. Once the mushrooms are soft, add the garlic and stir. If you don’t like mushrooms, skip this step. Let the garlic cook for about one minute and then add the chicken stock and tomatoes. Bring to a low simmer.
Add the cooked lentils to the ragout. Stir until mixed thoroughly. Add a heaping ¼ cup of uncooked orzo or other small pasta. Stir and cover pan. Simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring the ragout several times so the pasta doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. If you’d like, add a drained and rinsed can of cannellini beans.
Once the pasta is cooked, add about ½ bag of baby spinach. You can also use a package of frozen spinach. Stir the spinach until it’s wilted. Put the lid back on and simmer for another 15 minutes. The sauce will thicken from the pasta starch. Add salt and pepper to taste.
If you have any leftover cooked vegetables you can add them. I like to add leftover chicken for a complete dinner. You could put a fried or poached egg on top of a bowl of the ragout also. And bread. Bread makes life better!