Lentils and Cabbage: Hearty & Healthy

I’ve been on a cabbage kick lately, partly because it’s winter and cabbages still abound, fresh and tasty, but also because of this inspirational quote from Johnny Bowden, a nutritionist, who claims that cabbage is “the most important [vegetable] in the world from the point of view of nutritional benefits and cancer-fighting ability.”  For more healthy benefits of cabbage see below and explore here.  This recipe comes from Martha Rose Shulman’s Eating for Health column for The New York Times.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, half of it chopped, half sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 lb lentils
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1 dried red chile
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 oz waxy potatoes, sliced about 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 1/2 lbs green cabbage (1 medium head), cut into 3/4 inch wide ribbons
  • 1 Tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • Freshly grated Parmesan (optional)

Directions

  1. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add the chopped half of the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until tender (about 5 minutes).
  3. Add 2 of the garlic cloves and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds to a minute.
  4. Add the lentils, water, chile, and bay leaf, and bring to a simmer.
  5. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.
  6. Add 1 tsp salt and the potatoes.  Continue to simmer for 30 minutes or until the lentils and potatoes are tender.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. While the lentils are simmering…
  8. In a wide skillet heat the remaining olive oil over medium and add the sliced onion.  Cook, stirring, about 5 minutes.
  9. Add 1/2 tsp salt and the remaining garlic.  Stir and cook about 1 minute.
  10. Add the cabbage and turn the heat to medium-high.  Cook, stirring, until the cabbage begins to wilt.
  11. Add 1/4 cup water, lower the heat to medium, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes or until the cabbage is tender and sweet, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  12. To serve: spread the cabbage over the bottom of the pan, top with lentils and potatoes, sprinkle with parsley (Parmesan optional), and serve in soup bowls.

Nutrition Information

  • Cabbage protects the body from cancer-causing free radicals and helps metabolize estrogens.
  • Cabbage is also an excellent source of vitamins K and C and a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B6, folate, manganese, and Omega 3 fatty acids.
  • Lentils are high in fiber and protein-rich.
  • Lentils are an excllent source of manganese, iron, phosphorous, copper, vitamin B1, potassium, and molybdenum (a mineral important in the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and iron.

Source: Martha Rose Shulman, The New York Times, Recipes for Health

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Lentils in Oregano Oil with Tomatoes

This recipe is filling and easy.  It is a great at home lunch (I can’t broil tomatoes at work, I don’t know about you) and it is certainly healthy.

Ingredients for 2 servings

  • 1 tsp fresh oregano
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup cooked lentils
  • tomatoes (2 or 3 small or medium, more if you are using cherry tomatoes)
  • fresh dill (just a sprinkling)

Oregano-Flavored Olive Oil

  1. Put approximately 1 tsp of fresh oregano is a mortar and pestle.  Add 1/4 tsp sea salt.  Smash and grind.
  2. Gradually work in 2 1/2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (the best you have on hand).
  3. Work in 1/2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (or a bit more if you like lemon flavoring as much as me).

Avocado and Lentil Salad

  1. Cook the lentils (1 part lentils to 2 parts water for cooking).
  2. Toss some olive oil, salt, and pepper on the tomatoes and pop into the broiler (I use the toaster oven broiler for this) on an aluminum foil lined tray.  Depending on size, the tomatoes will be ready in 1o – 15 minutes.  The skin should start to shrivel and they should be fragrant and juicy.
  3. Combine 1 cup of cooked lentils with 2 Tbsp of the flavored olive oil, season to taste.
  4. Chop the tomato and add (juice and all) to the lentils.
  5. Sprinkle fresh dill over the top (dried is not a good substitute; skip if fresh dill is not available).

Lentil and Farro Curry Soup

After a week at my brother-in-law’s with nary a vegetable in sight, I craved something healthy to spoon into my mouth.  (The food at my brother-in-law’s was good.  Christmas cookies galore– seriously, breakfast, lunch, and dinner– and my sister-in-law roasted a turkey with commendably crisped skin, etc., etc., but I don’t count mashed potatoes as a vegetable and started having concerns about scurvy….)  I don’t feel good when I don’t eat well, so after our seven hour return car trip (thank you, my dear husband, for driving the whole thing!) I went immediately to the bookshelf for Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day cookbook.  This soup, the very first recipe that my eye fell upon, was exactly what I was after: easy to prepare, relatively quick, super healthy, nearly all the ingredients were already in the house (I had to nip out for an onion, but that, after all, is just poor planning on my part), and my husband, carnivore that he is, would eat it too (he has a soft soft for lentils and Indian spices).  Perfect!

A note on farro: This grain is not carried at all supermarkets.  I usually buy it at Trader Joe’s (reasonably priced), although in a pinch you can throw down extra green and procure it at Whole Foods.  But, and this is delightful, the last time I was at Costco, they had large bags of farro!  If it is selling at Costco next to the quinoa, then I know it will take off at your local grocery store any day now.  People are joining my farro celebration (it’s super tasty and good for you).

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large yellow onions, chopped
  • 1 cup peeled and diced sweet potato (one small sweet potato)
  • Salt
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp curry powder
  • 2/3 cup semi-pearled farro (you can use whole farro, just double the cooking time)
  • 1 1/4 cups green lentils
  • 6 cups water (or vegetable broth– my husband is campaigning for a chicken broth substitution….)
  • Kale (a palm full or more to taste), chopped up into very tiny pieces

Directions

  1. Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Stir in the onions and sweet potato.  Season with salt and saute until the onions start to soften (a few minutes).
  3. Add the curry powder (the amount varies defending on taste– I like a generous helping) and stir until everything is coated and fragrant (about a minute).
  4. Add the farro, lentils, kale, and liquid.
  5. Bring to a boil, decrease heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 30 minutes (until the lentils and farro are thoroughly cooked).
  6. Taste and season with salt as necessary.

Heidi Swanson also recommends the soup be served with a dollop of lemony-Greek yogurt and a drizzle of good extra-virgin olive oil.  My husband doesn’t like lemony food, but the yogurt certainly makes for a fancier presentation (and I think it’s good).  Here’s how to make it:

Lemony Greek Yogurt garnish

Zest and juice half a lemon.  Stir in 1 cup Greek yogurt and 1/4 tsp salt.  Stir and serve on top of soup.

Serves 8 people.