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Our brief fling with spring is over and winter has returned to our little corner of the world. The barbecue grill was wheeled back into its shed and thoughts turned back to comfort food: hearty, rib-sticking, warming food. Lentils – but not a salad. Salads are for
warm warmer weather. I needed a stew! And I had just the thing to go with it.
I found it at the supermarket last week. Something new! Well, new for me, anyway. I know the rest of the world has been extolling its virtues for the last 6,000 years or so, but we’re a conservative lot here in the Vendée. We don’t embrace new things easily. That’s the thing with me and spring: I get the urge to get out and do things, try new things, be adventurous, if only for the moment.
So, what is it, you ask, that I’m talking about for Weekend Herb Blogging #76?
Quinoa. Actually, in my case, quinoa mixed with bulgar – one can’t expect the French to be too open to new foods. After all, no one believed me when I said wild rice could be eaten on it’s own. (It’s always mixed with Basmati.)
Quinoa has been grown in the Andes for over 6,000 years and was second only to the potato as a food crop (third was maize). It was grown and held sacred by the Incas. Nutritionally it’s very high in protein, gluten free, high in fiber and minerals, and ” contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans, making it an unusually complete foodstuff”. Not only that, it’s good! It has a nutty taste with just the tiniest bit of crunch: when cooked the germ (a tiny, white spiral) separates from the seed and maintains an ‘al dente’ bite.
Quinoa has an outer coating that is very bitter and must be thoroughly washed. If you buy packaged quinoa this will have been done so all you need do is cook it.
My French package said to cook it like pasta, in lots of boiling water. Google said to cook it like rice, which is what I did: 1 part quinoa t o 2 parts chicken stock, ready in 15 minutes – as soon as the germ starts to separate. Something new instead of the stand-by brown and Basmati rices!
With it we had a nice, almost vegetarian Lentil Stew (I had a piece of Vendéen ham left from the asparagus starter).
2 stalks celery
3 cloves garlic
1 tbs oil
1/2 cup lentils either Lentils du Puy or regular tan or brown lentils
1 cup beef stock
1 can white kidney beans (Cannellini) 15oz (450gr)
1 can whole tomatoes, 15oz (450gr) 2 cups
1 tbs crumbled sage
1 – 2 slices Prosciutto or Vendéen Ham
Pick over lentils in case they missed the odd stone. Put lentils and beef stock in small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until lentils are done. They should absorb all of the stock but don’t let them dry out. Chop onion, Prosciutto, mince garlic and slice celery. Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and celery, sauté 5 minutes. Then add garlic and ham to pan and sauté briefly. Open, drain and rinse beans. Open and drain tomatoes, discarding juices. Roughly chop tomatoes. Add beans, herbs and tomatoes (with the juices from chopping) to pan. Cover, reduce heat and simmer until lentils are done, about 15 minutes. When lentils are done, add them to beans and mix well. serve with quinoa.
In case your wondering about the lack of red color – I used a bag of frozen yellow tomatoes for this. It gave it a nice golden color that I rather liked!
This week Weekend Herb Blogging is back home with Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen. Please stop by her blog on Monday to see what wonderful herbs, plants and flowers are being cooked around the world!