I didn’t grow up eating lentils. In fact, I don’t recall ever having lentils until I went to Spain in college. I’m not sure if lentils are a popular Spanish dish, but I am sure that lentils were the only dish my host mother knew how to prepare. My friend Lauren and I probably ate lentils three times a week with lady Zahra (perhaps more appropriately described as Czar-a.) I have plenty of bizarre stories to share about co-existing in her apartment, but this post is about lentils so let’s stick with ’em.
I woke up thinking about lentils. It’s not unusual for me to fantasize about dinner in the morning, but it’s not every day that I have a specific plan as soon as the alarm goes off. And then a strange thing happened. When Daniel and I were walking our dog I mentioned to that I would have time to put some thought into dinner tonight, but I didn’t mention the lentils. I know he likes – not loves – lentils, so I didn’t think he’d be terribly excited about a pot of legumes. When we discuss dinner, sometimes he asks me to give him a list of options to pick from, but this morning he simply said, “I don’t know if you have the time to do it, but I could go for some lentil soup.” Excuse me, what? Of all the menus on the planet, he asked for the very thing I had intended to make. And, by the way, I’ve only ever made lentils one or two other times – tops – since we’ve been married so it’s not something that I’d expect him ask me to make. Serendipity.
The only way I’ve prepared lentils before was very traditionally with a standard mirepoix (fancy french term for carrot, celery, onion base), a ham hock, and some spices. Today I needed to incorporate some leftover ground turkey. How bad could it be? After some consideration I decided on the following recipe … it’s easy and done in <1 hour!
Ground Turkey and Lentil Stew (serves 6-8)
2 cups rinsed lentils
2 quarts low sodium chicken broth (vegetable broth is fine)
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
3/4 lb lean ground turkey
1 white onion, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
3 medium carrots, diced
4 small tomatoes, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground Saigon cinnamon (regular cinnamon is fine)
1 1/4 tsp ground thyme
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
vegetable peeler (for carrots)
strainer for rinsing lentils
dutch oven or large pot
Dice, chop, and mince vegetables (about 8-10 minutes prep work required.) Over a medium temperature, heat oil in dutch oven. While oil is heating, rinse lentils. Add onions to pot and let them sweat for about 5 minutes or until they become tender and semi-translucent. Add carrots, celery, tomatoes, and garlic and cook until they become aromatic and tender (about 5 more minutes). Remove vegetable blend from pot and set aside. Place ground turkey directly into pot and cook fully (no more pink). Drain excess liquid from pot, if any. Return vegetables to the pot with turkey and add spices and tomato paste, and lentils. Stir to combine. When lentils are sufficiently coated in spice/paste blend, pour in the chicken or vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, the reduce to simmer and cover for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, stir well, replace lid but leave a crack and let simmer for another 20-30 minutes or until your preferred lentil texture is reached. (I like about 45 minute lentils.) Remove from heat and leave covered until ready to serve.
This can be made ahead and re-heated, although you will lose some liquid.
This is a winner!! Have a serendipitous evening 🙂