Yummy Clean-Out-the-Crisper Lentil & Vegetable Stew in Thirty-Five Minutes!

Yesterday morning with so many holiday things to do I was frazzled. What on earth to make for supper? Looked through my stash. Ah, French Green Lentils! Yes!

I thought I was making soup, but it turned out thicker, a stew. Decided that was super—wouldn’t add more liquid. So good and it’ll be for tonight, too. It also turned out to be a thrifty Clean-Out-the-Crisper dish–you do the same. Finished in a long half-hour, way easy.

I’ll give you what I did for a guide but make it your own. Ours is vegetarian, I sprinkled Parmesan cheese on top, but it could be vegan—or topped with chunks of cooked sausage would be lovely and add more servings.

By the way, I seem always to finish my soups with Cento San Marzano tomatoes. Tomatoes contribute not just luscious flavor and color, but their acid perks up whatever else is in the pot. The Italian beauties are packed in puree, also an enrichment. Can’t beat tomatoes for a finishing touch.

Speaking of finishing, I used garlic powder instead of fussing with fresh cloves—garlic powder is one of my cooking mainstays (always on our salad). Other flavor lifters were balsamic vinegar—acid, again—and crushed red pepper. You don’t want any of these enhancements to actually taste…they’re just there, underneath, raising everybody up.

If you can make this in the morning then let flavors marry over the day, more’s the better.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

1 pound French Green lentils (green generally cook fastest, but any is fine)
8 cups cool water
2 large unpeeled carrots (more if you have them)
4 medium unpeeled yellow potatoes (any potato will do)
4 smallish leeks, white part (or 1 medium-large onion)
2 large stalks celery (or fennel)
1 bunch kale (or spinach or chard)
1 28-ounce can peeled San Marzano tomatoes (or any tomatoes on hand)
About ¼ teaspoon garlic powder (or 2-3 fresh cloves through a garlic press)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (or fresh lemon juice)
Scant 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (or smoked paprika)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Shredded Parmesan or favorite cheese as garnish (2-3 tablespoons per
serving), or abundant chopped parsley, or 1-inch chunks of cooked sausage
(2-3 ounces per serving)

Turn lentils into a fine sieve and rinse, checking for debris. Place in 4-1/2 to 5 quart Dutch oven, add water. Set uncovered over high heat.

Scrub the carrots and potatoes, slice into 1-inch chunks. Set to one side while you slice the leeks into 1-inch chunks (check for sand inside, rinse out if need be); slice celery the same size.

When the lentil pot boils, stir in the prepared vegetables, reduce heat to maintain a lively simmer.

Stir the pot occasionally while you rinse the kale and slice stalks into 1/4-inch lengths, slice leaves into 1/2-inch ribbons. Stir into the pot. Set the lid on askew, adjust heat to medium-low. Stir occasionally.

When the greens have softened—about 15 minutes—stir in tomatoes, slicing them into smaller pieces…rinse out the can with soup. Simmer another 10 minutes or until all is tender.

Blend in garlic powder, vinegar, red pepper, salt, and pepper. Serve or remove from the heat, lid askew.

If convenient, set in a cool place for flavors to combine, then heat.

Serve with the garnish of your choice.

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