For your dining pleasure: Serve an award-worthy stew at your Oscar party
February is awards-viewing month, and I am always looking for an entree that would please everyone at my viewing party.
While there is much in the news suggesting that a plant-based diet will lengthen ones longevity. I'm not ready to give up my love of meat, fish and poultry just yet. However, I have been playing around with different dishes that feature beans and vegetables.
I developed a boldly flavored lentil stew punctuated with bits of velvety squash (you can find peeled, diced squash in your market), sweet balsamic vinegar and fresh thyme leaves.
I also love adding smoked turkey sausage, but you can choose whatever cooked sausage you like.
Lentils, often grouped as a bean, are in fact in the family of dried legumes. One of their Seriously Simple attributes is that there is no soaking required. There are many varieties of lentils, including brown lentils, green lentils, orange lentils and French lentils, but I have found multicolored lentils that cook relatively quickly and are simply delicious in this stew.
If you want, you can separate this into two different casseroles, one with sausage and one without. If you are going to serve this for a viewing party, I like to arrange lots of fresh vegetables, cheeses, crackers and a couple of dips on the table along with some sparkling wine.
• Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including "Seriously Simple Parties," and a James Beard Award-winning radio show host. You can contact her at www.seriouslysimple.com.
Lentil Stew with Butternut Squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
2 cups (1 pound) lentils, brown, green or multicolored, rinsed and picked over
6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 14 1/2 ounce can diced well-drained canned tomatoes
3/4 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound cooked sausage of your choice, cut into 1/2-inch slices (I like smoked turkey sausage) (optional)
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves or 1/3 teaspoon dried
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
2 tablespoons olive oil
Heat the oil in a 6-quart soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for about 3 minutes. Add the carrot and celery and continue sauteing for about 5 minutes, or until nicely softened.
Add the lentils, broth, tomatoes, squash and 2 tablespoons of parsley. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low, partially cover and cook for about 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender, stirring occasionally.
Pulse the lentils with a hand blender to partially puree, leaving plenty of whole lentils. (The consistency should be thick.) Add the optional sliced sausage, remaining parsley, thyme, vinegar, salt and pepper; simmer for 5 minutes more. Taste for seasoning.
For the topping combine the garlic, bread crumbs and parsley in a small bowl and reserve.
Preheat the broiler.
Spoon the lentils into a 9-by-13-inch ovenproof gratin dish. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the beans. Drizzle the olive oil evenly over the topping. Place under the broiler for 3 to 4 minutes or until the bread crumbs are nicely browned. Watch carefully to avoid burning. Serve immediately.
Advance preparation: Can be prepared up to three days ahead through Step 3 and refrigerated. Reheat gently before continuing. This stew also freezes well. Be sure to adjust the seasonings and add fresh herbs when you reheat the frozen soup.
Serves 6 to 8
-- Diane Rossen Worthington