Lentils have long been one of my favorite foods (not like I’ve mentioned that probably a thousand times before already…), and lately I also can’t get enough of chipotle pepper – it imparts such a warming smokey heat that really elevates other flavors, and it happens works particularly well with lentils (see Exhibit A here, and consider this recipe Exhibit B!). Combined with fresh garlic and a shallot, gently sauteed and melded with lentils and fresh vegetables, it’s all pretty irresistible – and luckily, this happens to be food that’s good to fill up on seconds (and then some?)!
This dish came together on a weeknight after a long day of work and not wanting to spend a ton of time preparing food. I’ll also confess that while pre-made legumes or vegetables don’t compare to those that are freshly prepared at home, I used a pre-cooked package of lentils and one of beets from Trader Joe’s (both found in the refrigerated produce section). As far as these things go, TJ’s is often one of the exceptions to my rule; I think their quality is quite decent.
This is a shortcut, easy, one-pan recipe that fulfills those two critical categories: healthy and tasty. And chilled leftovers from the fridge are great for lunch the next day, as is or with some other veggies or a grain mixed in.
I’d rather just share the framework for this recipe for chipotle-spiced lentils and vegetables rather than a specific “how to”, as it’s one you should tweak and make your own based on whatever fresh or leftover veggies / beans/ grains you have on hand to cook. In essence, I started by adding a glug or two of olive oil to a good pan over medium heat, and then 2-3 minced cloves of garlic and one shallot – adding in a gentle shake of dried chipotle pepper just as the garlic and shallots begin to soften. Then in went about a pound of greens (spinach, kale, chard all work beautifully), and a cup or two of roughly chopped mushrooms. Once the greens began to wilt, I added a cup or two of halved small tomatoes, about a cup of cooked beets, and up to two cups of cooked lentils.
Whatever you use for main ingredients, remember to taste season as you go – adding more chipotle, cracked black pepper, a pinch of salt, maybe some paprika.
One tip for this particular kind of single-pan cooking: use a pan large enough to create vague “sections” where you can sort of designate a spot on the pan for each separate ingredient – understanding of course there will be plenty of overlap (and all should mix together when serving/eating) – but this makes it a little easier to account for different components needing slightly varying cooking times.
Spoon into individual bowls or plates for eating, and try adding a bit of Bragg’s Aminos on top or some really nice balsamic vinegar. And a touch of a good hot sauce adds a nice kick too. We also enjoyed a small fresh baguette on the side with some peppered and salted olive oil for dipping, and a bottle of red wine.
For such simplicity (also maybe because adding a baguette and red wine to just about any meal makes it a bit more French, no?), this still feels deserving of a bon appetit!
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