You would not believe how many times I’ve eaten pizza, large helpings of chocolate, and waffles/pancakes in the last couple weeks. I always over-commit to work projects when the holidays start and then kind of neglect my personal wellness in the process. Maybe this is sounding familiar to some of you? When we start closing in on Christmas day and it’s time to get together with our people, I’m just wiped and can only manage one glass of wine/boozy nog before falling asleep on the couch/at the table/wherever I happen to be.
There’s a meeting point between less-stellar eating habits and a lack of mindfulness for me. If I’m pounding coffees and turning to sweets regularly, chances are I’m feeling a slight disconnect because I’m not sleeping as well/not taking the time to engage with something that isn’t work-related. It doesn’t take long for this whole thing to boil over in unpredictable ways.
Before the lack of balance undermines my potential completely, I usually try to snap out of it by making something seriously healthy—whether that takes the form of the greenest smoothie imaginable, a batch of fluffy brown rice to mix into a few meals, or something comforting like this lentil stew. The act of making the food is like hitting the reset button. I focus on the ingredients, how I’m preparing/handling them, and how they’ll make me feel. It sounds a little precious, but it works for me.
If you follow me on Instagram, you know how much I believe in the restorative powers of cozy brown/beige-coloured food. It’s not always the most glamorous (it actually never is), but it does the trick when you need nourishment that soothes. While we’re hitting the home stretch of the International Year of Pulses, I’m still maintaining my Pulse Pledge week in and week out. When I cook lentils for a recipe here, I almost always go for the French or black beluga ones because they tend to look a bit more exciting in photos—even though I cook with the brown/pale green ones just as often.
In this baked stew (I’m trying really hard to not call it a casserole), lentils are combined with some plump mushrooms, leeks, a little sharp edge of balsamic vinegar, and the woodsy aroma of rosemary. Then, the whole thing gets a cozy, salty potato blanket. Topping it this way kind of evokes the idea of a pot pie, but is infinitely easier because there isn’t any pastry involved. The dish is meaty and filling, but light and balanced too. Aside from a few garnishing rosemary sprigs, it’s comfortingly beige—but in a way that makes you feel good when you’re done eating, trust me ;)
BAKED BALSAMIC LENTIL STEW WITH MUSHROOMS & ROSEMARY POTATOES RECIPE
Print the recipe here!
NOTES: I trimmed the potatoes into rectangles so that I could have a domino effect (hehe), but the natural potato rounds are obviously just as great and a little lower maintenance ;)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided (plus extra)
1 1/3 lbs cremini mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
sea salt and ground pepper, to taste
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
2 leeks, chopped (white & light green parts only)
1 sprig fresh rosemary, minced (plus extra)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup green or brown lentils, rinsed
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon gluten-free tamari soy sauce
4 cups vegetable stock, divided
2 large yukon gold potatoes
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Set a 9x13x2 baking dish on the counter.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large, heavy soup pot over medium heat. Add the sliced mushrooms to the pot and let them sit for a full minute. Season the mushrooms with pepper and stir. Let the mushrooms sit another minute or so. Season the mushrooms with salt and stir continuously until the mushrooms are soft and moist. Transfer cooked mushrooms to a plate or bowl and set aside.
Pour the remaining olive oil into the pot. Add the onions, carrots, celery, and leeks to the pot and stir. Cook and stir until the onions are quite soft, about 5 minutes. Add the rosemary and garlic to the pot and cook for 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add the lentils to the pot and stir to coat in the oil/vegetables. Pour the balsamic vinegar and tamari into the pot and scrape up any brown bits that have accumulated.
Pour 3 cups of the vegetable stock into the pot. Bring the lentils to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer. Cover the pot and cook until lentils are just tender and there is only a tiny slick of liquid left in the pot, about 18 minutes. Season the lentils with salt and pepper.
Turn the heat off and stir in the cooked mushrooms and remaining cup of vegetable stock. Transfer the stew to the 9x13x2 baking dish. Pat the stew down into the dish. There should be just enough liquid to keep things ever-so-slightly fluid—like a thick, but still broth-y, stew.
Trim the sides off of the potatoes so that you have 2 relatively even rectangular prisms of potato. Then, using a mandolin, slice the potatoes into 1/8 inch-thick slices. Lay out the slices and blot them dry with paper towel.
Layer the potato slices on top of the lentil stew, covering the entire surface. Drizzle the top of the potatoes with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and scatter some extra rosemary leaves.
Slide the potato-topped stew into the oven and roast until the potatoes are very lightly browned on the edges and tender, about 35-40 minutes. Then, set the oven to broil and let the potatoes brown even further for about a minute. Serve the stew hot with sections of the potatoes on top.
*This post was created in partnership with USA Pulses and Pulse Canada. All opinions/endorsements are my own. Thanks for supporting!