January 10, 2012

Squash, Chickpea, Red Lentil Stew. Sort of.

So, the inspiration for the ingredient of the week being lentils was the recipe of the day emailed to me by Cooking.Com on January 9th. I thought that Squash Chickpea Red lentil Stew sounded fantastic, sold Rachel on the idea of lentils and off I went to the grocery store. Where they had never heard of the North African squash called for (Kabocha). Never fear! I can use Butternut! But alas, the co-op is out of red lentils. Okay....I can use brown, I guess. So my Kabocha, Chickpea, Red lentil stew became Butternut, Chickpea, Brown lentil stew before I even unloaded the grocery bags. But undaunted, I continued. Then....wait. Dried chickpeas? No way. I'm not bothering with that, I'll just use them out of the can. And finally I noticed the "let simmer in crockpot on low 5 1/2 - 6 hours". And it was 2:00. And dinner is at 6:30. No sweat. I'll just crank that crockpot up to high and be golden. And for the most part, it all worked out, though I don't think it turned out quite as flavorful as it might have if I had the actual ingredients the recipe called for, or if I had been able to let all those flavors slowly simmer together for 6 hours. Here is the recipe in it's original form:

"Modeled after North African stews, this aromatic vegetarian main course can be served over brown rice or steamed spinach"

3/4 cup dried chickpeas
2.5 lbs kabocha (or butternut) squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup red lentils
4 cups vegetable broth
2 Tbs tomato paste
1 Tbs minced peeled fresh ginger
1.5 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon saffron
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Add at the end:
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 chopped roasted unsalted peanuts
1/4 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

Soak chickpeas in enough cold water to cover them by 2 inches for 6 hours or overnight. (Alternatively, use the quick-soak method: Place beans in a large pot with enough water to cover by two inches. Bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and let stand for one hour.) Drain when ready to use.

[Here you can picture me opening a can of chickpeas]

Combine everything except the lime juice, peanuts and cilantro in a slow cooker.

Put the lid on and cook on low until the chickpeas are tender and the lentils have started to break down ; 5 - 6.5 hours.

Stir in lime juice, Serve sprinkled with peanuts and cilantro.

So, again, my modifications pretty significantly changed this. Butternut squash instead of kabocha, canned chickpeas instead of dried, brown lentils instead of red, high heat for 3.5 hours rather than low for 5-6.5. I also served it over basmati rice instead of brown.

Overall, it was good, though when I tasted it before I put in the lime juice and garnishes, I thought it was really bland. Just vegetables in broth. The lime juice and that particular mix of garnish really gave it something a little special. But not enough special. This meal tasted good tonight as something warm while the snow is blowing rather blustery outside, but I don't think it's going on the regular rotation list. It's not that it wasn't tasty, it just didn't have anything that made it stand out to me. It made plenty, though, so we'll be eating leftovers tomorrow. Maybe after the flavors blend in the fridge overnight it will be more delicious?

Wife rating: not bad
Preschooler rating: ate the rice, left everything else except for the madated one piece of squash and one piece of carrot. When asked if they were good, he replied "yes. NOW can I be excused?"
My rating: also not bad. Would be bland without the lime juice, peanuts and cilantro, but they make it tasty. Not fantastic, but tasty. Would like to try it with red lentils to see if that makes a difference.

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