Healthy Comfort Food: Lentil Stew with Mushrooms + Spinach
Let me just put it out there: I’m the kind of girl who gets jazzed about lentil stew. At least when it tastes as good as this.
We love this savory stew with a hint of dairy, but you can easily make it vegan by swapping the butter for olive oil and omitting the cream.
What to eat right now
Hello and happy Monday! We spent the weekend putting away Christmas decorations, shoveling out the driveway, feasting on chili and cornbread muffins, and testing out our new sleds. It was the perfect kind of snowy weekend at the start of the winter, when snow still seems a little magical and you can pass for a fun-loving adult rather than a 95-year old curmudgeon. (Talk to me in late February and I’ll practically be flashing my dentures.)
Healthy comfort food
I’ve been really feelin’ the healthy comfort food vibe these past few weeks. That’s easy to do when the food tastes great and makes you feel great, too. It makes you feel great physically, and hey, if you want to go ahead and be just shy of smug for keeping your resolutions, don’t let me stop ya from feeling great psychologically as well.
Lentil stew for the win
This lentil stew is full of umami powerhouse ingredients that make it some of the meatiest vegetarian food you’ll find. Hope you love it.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1 pound cremini (baby bella) mushrooms, sliced on the thick side
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 1 teaspoon salt, divided
- 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 6 cups good vegetable broth
- 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon marmite (optional)
- 1 dried bay leaf
- A few sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 cups brown lentils, rinsed and drained*
- 5 ounces baby spinach
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- Warm 1 tablespoon each of the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat in a 5 quart Dutch oven or other heavy lidded pot. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring just a few times, until nicely browned and reduced in volume by half. Remove mushrooms to a bowl and set aside.
- In the same pot, heat the remaining butter and olive oil. Add onion, celery, carrots and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about five minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for a minute. Stir in the tomato paste and cook a minute more.
- Add the vegetable broth, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, soy sauce, marmite, bay leaf and thyme. Raise heat to high. Rinse and drain the lentils and add to pot. When broth comes to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 30 minutes, until lentils are nice and tender. Remove from heat and remove thyme stems and bay leaf.
- If you have an immersion blender, pulse it 4 or 5 times to puree the stew just a little bit. (Alternatively, transfer about two cups of the stew to a blender and puree it, then return to pot, or simply forego this step if you prefer.)
- Return the mushrooms and any accumulated juices to the pot along with the spinach and cream. Simmer briskly, uncovered, until spinach is wilted, about two minutes. Off the heat, stir in vinegar. Let sit for 10 minutes, then ladle into bowls and serve with good bread.
Brown lentils are sometimes called green lentils. (Just don't confuse them with green split peas, which are a different thing entirely. Green split peas are bright green and glossy and not what we're looking for here.)