Recipes from a Quarantined Cook | Lentil Kale Tomato Stew
Rabbi Hillel’s maxim (“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And being for myself, what am ‘I’?”) rings passionately true these days, as we attempt to flatten the curve of the Coronavirus spread through self-isolation and halt its advance. Creator of a famous sandwich of maror with charoset, uniter of bitterness and sweet hope among Jews, gentle Hillel himself would be tasked.
Most of us are up for this. Despite empty grocery shelves and finite pantries, we must eat, drink and live our lives as fully as possible. If we are fortunate, we may well have enough food (if not, please call 2-1-1 at the United Way, for help from local food providers), but we probably could use a hand with what to make to eat and how to feel connected while doing it.
So welcome to “A Momentary Kitchen,” a visit to my Midwestern kosher kitchen—a moment of something (Jewish and foody) to do with your loved ones in these uncertain times.
I am a home chef cut from Old Country cloth with a touch of modern gastromancy. I like to answer food questions, so I hope you’ll write to me to ask. My day job is teaching, but by night my kitchen is an imagined factory of Yiddishkeit and good, down-to-earth eating. For the duration, my kitchen is now your kitchen. Come in, grab a stool and some tea, kibitz and cook. Each recipe has been chosen for children 10 and over (under 10, please cook with a grownup!) and each will offer variations for dietary needs and palette. Every recipe will take less than 30 minutes to prepare and less than three hours to cook.
It is Day Two of COVID-19 seclusion in my house, a sunny and rainy day on the Great Lakes. After a month of saying goodbyes to local eateries and squirreling away groceries, we are all at once learning to socially distance ourselves. Moreover, most of us have just done something we have never had to do before: buy food enough to live 2 to 4 weeks without leaving the house.
So today we start easy—a one-pot wonder using unmeasured ingredients found in most cabinets.
“Likud” (LKT) Stew simmers lentils with tomato and kale. It’s delicately full of flavor and texture, yet hard to ruin (though easy to burn). It’s a pun on likud, meaning not the Israeli political party but “consolidation.” It’s also a pun on the words stew and stew, something we might well do for a while. LKT is also rewired cholent, that redolent bean-meat stew that ran the foodways of Europe, Asia and Africa. I shortcut around the Mediterranean for greener flavors of cumin, kale and basil, so it is less beany, yet highly satisfying. It gets different and better over an hour stewing, low on the burner. Leftovers will outlast your seclusion if you freeze them in glass jars.
RECIPE BY MARCY EPSTEIN
“Likud” Stew (Lentil Kale Tomato Stew)
Olive oil, one big splash, nearly ¼ cup
Two medium onions, chopped coarsely and separated
A heaping tablespoon of tumeric
A heaping tablespoon of cumin seed
Green or brown lentils, up to the whole bag, as desired
Two cans of diced tomatoes or 3-4 fresh tomatoes, diced
Three carrots, sliced (scrub these first)
One yam or sweet potato or two medium potatoes, cubed
Three heaping tablespoons of basil
One heaping tablespoon of Better Than Bouillon, Osem, or two cubes
5-6 leaves of kale, torn from stems, ripped up or chopped
A heaping teaspoon of salt
Black pepper and more salt to taste
Add some red pepper flakes to oil first for a touch of heat
Leave out cumin for a milder flavor
Substitute vegetable for bouillon
Add tofu or chopped egg as toppings
Add tomato sauce to extend stew and give it a nice orangey glow
Add a dollop of sour cream or unsweetened yogurt
Sprinkle cheese on it
Experiment—look in the fridge for the bits of leftover sauces to try!
Serve with rice or quinoa, or with favorite toast
1. Prepare ingredients and heat olive oil on high in a cast iron or nonstick big pot.
2. When oil is medium hot, stir in onions until medium soft. Add cumin seed, turmeric and salt until you can smell the onions and cumin. Look over the lentils in a bowl first, removing any pebbles, then dump the lentils into the saute until they are coated and steaming. Potato and carrots go in next, stir all, then turn the burner to low. Add three quarts of water (or stop three inches from top of the pot rim!), the bouillon and tomatoes, stirring a minute to make sure lentils do not clump at the bottom of the pot. Let cook for 20-30 minutes, until lentils, carrots and sweet potato are medium soft. Add kale, salt and pepper, about five minutes before serving.
The stew feeds 6-8, or 9-10 if you extend it with tomato sauce (which I did). At 20-30 minutes, the stew is al dente, but from there, watch and have fun tasting it as it reduces, thickens and darkens. All the stages of this stew are delicious.
Please let us know how your recipe turns out! Moment Magazine online will feature your comments and photographs, from your house to a world replete with Jewish kitchens and cooks. Enjoy and see you tomorrow!