Much has happened since my last post more than a month ago. I spent two weeks home in Michigan (and survived the polar vortex). I spent a weekend in Milwaukee and another in Philadelphia. I saw a lot of old friends and a lot of new movies. And now, back home in Brooklyn, life has more or less resumed its familiar rhythm of train rides and lesson planning and weekends spent lingering over brunch. As much as I love my Midwest roots, the New York life is a pretty beautiful one to come back to.
Particularly when captured through the filters of Instagram.
Yes, I’ve joined the ranks of iPhone users and, inevitably, have fallen under Instagram’s spell. A New York Times article entitled The Agony of Instagram, published last month, perfectly captures the app’s allure when it describes its “built-in ability (through the site’s retro-style filters) to idealize every moment, encouraging users to create art-directed magazine layouts of their lives.” Even pre-Instagram, I had a tendency toward posing people and things (in particular, food) into magazine-like perfection before snapping a photo. Access to an iPhone has turned this almost-charming preoccupation into an addiction, and I’m afraid I’m beginning to see the world not in its true colors but in the amped-up teals and ambers and golds of an Insta filter.
That said, I’d have to argue that this Moroccan red lentil stew looks just as good to the naked eye as it does in a wash of “Valencia” or “Earlybird” or “X-Pro II.” Featuring a garden’s worth of winter veggies — including sweet potato, carrot, and curly kale — this recipe is one to cook up and keep you warm on a January night. A warning: it makes a ton of food. So instead of sharing yet another photo with your Instagram friends, why not share a bowl of stew?
moroccan red lentil stew (with quinoa)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons coriander
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
3/4 cup red lentils
3 cups vegetable broth
1 28-ounce can diced tomato (fire-roasted, preferably)
2 large carrots, chopped
2 medium sweet potatoes, chopped
1/2 cup (or more) golden raisins
1 bunch kale, destemmed and sliced thinly
salt and pepper
red quinoa (or any cooked grain)
a handful of almonds, coarsely chopped
a sprinkling of flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Heat olive oil in a large soup pot. Add onion and cook for few minutes, until just starting to soften. Stir in the cumin, cinnamon and coriander so that the onion is well-coated in spice. Saute for 5 minutes , until the onion is very soft and translucent. Add ginger and garlic, and cook for 1 minute more.
Add lentils, broth, tomatoes, raisins, carrots and sweet potatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring the whole mixture to a boil, then reduce to low heat. To adjust consistency, add more or less broth, as desired. Cover and let simmer for 45 minutes.
After the stew has simmered for 45 minutes, add kale and continue simmering for 15 minutes more. At this point you can cook the grains (I used red quinoa, but I’m sure any kind of grain would do).
To serve, top quinoa with the lentil stew and garnish with chopped almonds and fresh parsley. Drizzle with fresh lemon juice just before serving for a bright and tangy finishing touch.
Despite the considerable amount of chopping, dicing and mincing required at the start of the recipe, this stew comes together relatively easily once the sauteing starts. I love how the flavors of ginger, garlic, cinnamon and cumin — each formidable on its own — blend together so seamlessly to create a taste that is both complex and comforting. The tender root vegetables and chewy lentils create a savory stage on which individual flavors can shine: the sweet burst of a golden raisin, the crunch of an almond, the freshness of the parsley. A hearty helping of this stew paired with a grain such as quinoa makes for one protein-packed bowl of goodness (and did I mention it’s vegan and gluten-free?).