lentil stew with sesame rice

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We didn’t really eat lentils much until a dinner at our friend Ted‘s house almost two years ago. He made a delicious Indian-spiced lentil dish and we got hooked—Ted’s lentils were that good. On the whole, lentils are tasty, cheap and versatile. I’ve been trying different recipes here and there, and though I cannot seem to reproduce Ted’s, this has been one of my favorites that I’ve tried.

Like most stews, this one only gets better as it sits. The flavors meld and develop over time and it goes from pretty good to really good in about two days. If you have the foresight, make it a day or two ahead of serving it. Also, the lemon really makes this stew. It adds such a perfect brightness to the dish. It might seem weird to put lemon slices in a stew before you simmer the thing for 30 minutes, but it turns out great. Don’t skip it!

Lentil Stew with Sesame Rice, adapted from The Kinfolk Table 
1 cup red or yellow lentils
1 onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 – 1.5″ piece of ginger, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, depending on how spicy you like it
1 – 15 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 lemon, sliced into rounds
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
olive oil
salt & pepper, to taste
chopped cilantro, parsley or green onion for garnish

Rinse the lentils in cold water until the water runs clear.

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In a dutch oven, heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, cumin and cayenne and saute a few minutes more. Add the tomatoes, stock, lentils and lemon slices. Turn the heat to low and let the stew simmer for 20 – 30 minutes, until the lentils are tender. If you’re eating your stew the next day, turn off the heat and stash your lentils in the fridge. If you’re eating that night, let the lentils simmer away until your rice is cooked.

For the rice
1 cup brown rice (or white rice, though the nuttiness of brown rice goes well with this stew)
2 cups water (or according to your rice cookers directions – rice cookers know all)
3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1 teaspoon salt

Now brown rice takes a long time to cook. Plan for double the cooking time of white rice so about an hour on the stove or two hours in a rice cooker. If your rice cooker has a self-timer, use it. If it doesn’t, start the rice before you start the stew or the second you walk in the door after work.

I’m mentioning this because you, like me, might not be familiar with the intricacies of brown rice. You might realize only after you get home from work ravenous at 8pm that brown rice has 2 hour (!) cooking time. This news might force you to lie in dismay on the floor while your knight in flannel and skinny jeans orders Japanese takeout. Are you sensing a theme?

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While your rice is cooking and stew is warming, toast the sesame seeds in a pan over low heat until they are fragrant. Once the rice is cooked, mix them into the rice, saving a few for garnish.

To serve, ladle the stew over the rice. Top with some cilantro, parsley, green onions or sesame seeds—whatever you’ve got in the fridge will do—and enjoy!

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-Emily