Friday, June 1, 2012

Savory Lentil Rhubarb Stew

Rhubarb is another one of the hallmarks of spring.  But it requires so much sugar to make it tasty that I don't use much of it anymore.  So my rhubarb plant has been burgeoning with the stuff.   Then I remembered that a few years ago the local Rhubarb Festival (yea, yea, I know -you are wondering what a Rhubarb Fest is all about) printed some of their best recipes in the newspaper and had included a savory rhubarb lentil  dish of some kind. Where did I put that red folder of rhubarb recipes? And why do I remember a funky recipe when I can't remember what I went downstairs for two minutes ago?  Yep, there was the red rhubarb recipe folder next to my stack of cookbooks.  And there was that recipe for combining rhubarb and lentils. Looking more carefully at the recipe from the June 22, 2005 issue of Duluth News Tribune, I realized this recipe of international intrigue wasn't submitted by a local cook, rather it was by the great culinary guru Mark Bittman.  Definitely worth trying if this renown chef said it was good. An added enticement for me was the use of East Indian spices, which I love.  Mark Bittman made the point that rhubarb is really a vegetable, so it is well suited to a savory dish rather than only pie.   So I gave it a try, and wowza.  Easy and tasty!  And I was lucky enough to have some cilantro growing in pots on the deck, thanks to my husband, Tom.  I might even share this healthy version of rhubarb with him.  Maybe.   

3 - 4 stalks rhubarb, strings removed
      (about 2 cups chopped)
1 cup uncooked orange lentils, well-washed
2 tablespoons minced ginger                              
1 tablespoon minced garlic
4 cardamom pods
1 tablespoon mustard seed
2 cloves
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 dried ancho or other mild chile, optional
salt to taste  (about 1/4 tsp)
chopped cilantro leaves (at least 1 tablespoon)

In a saucepan, combine all ingredients, except salt and cilantro and add water to cover by about 1 inch.  Cook at a steady simmer until the lentils and rhubarb are quite soft, 20 - 30 minutes.  Remove cloves and cardamom pods.  Add salt, then taste and adjust seasoning.  Add cilantro.  Puree if you want a smoother texture, but the wonder of orange lentils is that they are remarkably soft and cook quickly.  

Servings per recipe: 4
Serving Size: 1 cup                                  
Calories: 206
Total Fat: 1 g
Cholesterol:  0 mg
Sodium: 8 mg
Total Carbs: 35 g
Dietary Fiber: 17 g
Protein: 14