simple and healthy tangy lentils and quinoa
Comfort food. It means different things to different people. For some it’s pizza, or a fried chicken, for others it’s spaghetti and meatballs or meatloaf and mashed potatoes. A strong case can be made for mac-and-cheese or a toasty grilled cheese sandwich with a cup of tomato soup. If it were my last day, any one of those would be a suitable meal for me.
Unfortunately, comfort food and skinny jeans are rarely uttered in the same sentence. That was my conundrum last week. I wanted something warm and comforting for dinner, but I didn’t want the guilt associated with any of those indulgences.
Scott and I are trying to rectify a laissez-faire, I’ll-eat-what-I-want-to-eat, attitude which prevailed this summer. So I peaked into the pantry to see what I could come up with and settled on some french green lentils and quinoa.
We were having some pan-seared salmon and oven roasted tomatoes for dinner and this combination of fiber-full legumes and protein-packed quinoa made an ideal comfort-food-esque addition. In fact, Scott requested the leftovers for his lunch the next day. Success!
The key here is not to overcook the beans or quinoa. If there’s excess water in the lentils, drain it. For the quinoa, let it cool without the lid, so the steam evaporates. Then the two can be mixed together while still maintaining their toothsome qualities. A mirepoix, fresh chopped plum tomato and grassy parsley add flavor and brightness. A shallot vinaigrette with a liberal dose of dijon mustard adds just the right tang.
For an extra creamy, salty kick you can sprinkle individual servings with goat cheese or feta crumbles — which I would have done here, if I’d had them on hand. (And I was just at the store, too. Grumble).
- 1 stalk celery, medium dice
- 2 carrots, peeled, medium dice
- 1/2 large onion, medium dice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3/4 cup regular or red quinoa
- 2 cups water, divided
- 1/2 cup de puy (french lentils)
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1/4 teaspoon ground bay leaves
- 1 whole bay leaf
- 3-4 whole stems of thyme, tied in kitchen string
- 1 plum tomato, seeded and diced
- 1/2 cup freshly chopped parsley
- 2 medium shallots, finely diced
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
- 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- In a small saucepan, bring vegetable stock, 1/2 cup water, ground bay leaves, whole bay leaf and bunch of time to a boil. Add lentils, cover and simmer about 20-25 minutes - until lentils are cooked through.
- While lentils are cooking, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add celery, carrots and onion, and cook until vegetables are slightly softened, about 4-5 minutes. Add quinoa and water and bring to a boil. Cover pot with a lid and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes until quinoa is tender and has given off its little spiral germ.
- While quinoa and lentils cook, make the vinaigrette. In a small bowl, whisk all the ingredients for the vinaigrette until mixture is emulsified.
- When both the lentils and quinoa are cooked through, move them from the heat and remove the lid from each pot to cool. Drain any excess liquid from the lentils and quinoa (you want the moisture to come from the vinaigrette).
- In a large bowl combine lentils, quinoa, chopped tomato, chopped parsley and gently toss to combine. Add 3 tablespoons of the vinaigrette and toss. Taste for seasoning and moisture. If it needs more dressing add it 1-2 tablespoons at a time, tasting after each addition.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.
- I usually end up with a little vinaigrette left over, which can be added to a green salad the next day.