Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Healthy Lunch Options

Lots of people make resolutions to get healthy this time of the year, so I've decided to make some posts this week in keeping with that theme. First, my dear friend Tricia is offering The Simple Gourmand followers a chance to win a cute lunch tote from Thirty-One Gifts - click here to enter. To go along with the giveaway, I decided to make a post on healthy and tasty dishes that are easy to pack for lunch. The first dish, Lentil Ragout, is from The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook. I will be completely honest and tell you that this dish turned out so much better than I was anticipating. I had tried lentils before, only to be disappointed by their mealy texture and bland flavor. This Lentil Ragout turned out smooth and creamy and the flavor was rich and savory - it did not disappoint!

Note: I made a few changes to the original recipe based on ingredients I had on hand, and one mistake (oops!). Since I really liked the way it turned out, I've posted it here the way I made it.

Lentil Ragout
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 C chopped onions
2 large leeks, white part only, washed and chopped
2 large celery stalks, trimmed and chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp crumbled dried oregano
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 C uncooked lentils, rinsed (I used red lentils)
1 1/4 C Flavor Kick (recipe below)
1 3/4 C vegetable broth

Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, leeks, celery, carrots, garlic, oregano, cinnamon, and cloves, and saute over medium heat until the vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes. Add the tomato paste and vinegar, and stir to blend. Stir in the lentils, Flavor Kick, and vegetable broth. Turn up the heat to medium-high and bring the sauce to a simmer. Cover and turn down the heat to medium-low and cook until the lentils are soft and most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 50 minutes. Eat plain or serve over quinoa or on whole wheat pasta.

Flavor Kick
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large carrot, scrubbed, trimmed, and chopped
2 celery stalks, including leaves, chopped
1 large leek, including greens, washed and chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1/4 C red wine (I used Sweet Vermouth instead)
1 bay leaf
2 tsp crumbled dried thyme
2 C vegetable broth
2 C plus 1 tbsp water
1 Tbsp cornstarch

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large nonstick saucepan. Add the celery, carrot, leek, onion, shallot, and garlic and saute until the onion is soft, about 8 minutes.

Stir in tomato paste to blend thoroughly with the vegetables. Still stirring, add the red wine, and let the mixture simmer until most of it has evaporated, about 7 minutes.

Add the bay leaf, thyme, vegetable broth, and 2 cups of the water. Let the broth simmer until it's reduced by half, about 40 minutes.

Blend the cornstarch with the remaining tablespoon of water in a cup or small bowl. Stir the mixture into the broth, and continue to simmer until it's thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Strain through a fine sieve, discard the vegetables, and refrigerate until ready to use. Or transfer to smalle containers and freeze.

As for my lunch, I packed the lentils, some roasted cauliflower, and a spinach salad with dried cherries, goat cheese, and blanched slivered almonds.

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