Creamy Spinach and Lentils
This recipe caught my eye recently on Pinterest. I try to cook vegetarian meals a few times a week because research shows it’s good for the planet and people. Plus, we like the variety. Joe likes to say, “It’s good and good for me.” So dang cute.
I made a few changes to accommodate our preferences. I added baby portobello mushrooms to augment the lentils’ earthy nature. Red lentils would be pretty, but I didn’t have enough. I added garlic at the end of the cooking time of the onions, carrots and celery. As is my tendency, I used additional fresh spinach. It cooks down so much that sometimes you want more (to paraphrase the little girl in the old AT&T commercial). If you are avoiding pure delicious starch, you could substitute sweet potato for the Yukons.
I started with 4 cups chicken broth but quickly added another cup. It’s kinda like making risotto, where you keep adding broth as it is absorbed. I ended up using 8 cups. I might have gotten away with 7 cups, but I didn’t mind if it was just a little soupy. Lindsay writes that it depends in part on how old your lentils are. Because I couldn’t remember buying this particular bag, I was ready to use a lot of broth!
If it’s important to you to be able to easily mash the cooked potato as directed, I’d advise chopping the raw potato into bigger chunks than usual. It was hard to find the cooked bits to smash them. I gave up, though I didn’t mind that most little pieces remained.
It made a wonderful supper on a cold, snowy night.
My changes are incorporated in the recipe.
One-Pot Creamy Spinach Lentils
1 tbsp. butter, oil or bacon grease
8 oz. Baby Bella mushrooms, rinsed and sliced
2 tbsp. butter, oil or bacon grease
2 carrots, peeled and chopped (or 8 to 10 chunky baby-cut carrots)
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 small to medium sweet onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups uncooked lentils, rinsed (I used regular brown)
2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups total)
4 to 8 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
A few sprigs of fresh parsley (I forgot this)
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
1/2 cup half-and-half (fat-free is fine; I used a little extra)
8 oz. package fresh spinach
Salt and pepper to taste (be generous with the salt)
Olive oil and red wine vinegar for topping, if desired
If you use the mushrooms, heat the 1 tbsp. fat (I used bacon grease) over medium-high heat in a medium to large nonstick skillet. Add sliced mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, till just starting to brown.
Meanwhile, heat the 2 tbsp. fat in another large, deep nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots and celery. Saute for 10 minutes until the vegetables are fragrant and starting to brown. Stir in the garlic and browned mushrooms and cook another minute. Add the wine slowly – it should give a little sizzle. Stir to get all the browned bits off the bottom.
Add the lentils, potatoes and 4 cups of broth. Tie the bay leaf, parsley and thyme together and toss in the pot (or just throw it in like I did. It’s not hard to pick out the thyme stems). Simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, adding more broth as necessary so the lentils are just barely covered in liquid.
When the lentils and potatoes are soft, gently mash the potatoes against the side of the pot with the back of the wooden spoon to make the mixture creamy. Remove the bay leaf and herb stems.
Add half the spinach and the half-and-half. Stir to incorporate. Stir in the rest of the spinach. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve each serving with a drizzle of good olive oil and a splash of red wine vinegar, per Jamie Oliver’s recommendation.
Notes from Pinch of Yum:
The cooking length for the lentils (and the amount of liquid you need) will partially depend on how old your lentils are. Mine had been around for a while … so they took about 6 to 7 cups of broth over about 45 minutes of cooking time. Just play it by ear and do what feels right if it looks like it needs more liquid and more time.