Week Night Dinner Series: Beef and Lentil Hash

A cold and foggy morning.

A cold and foggy morning.

As I was lamenting what to make for dinner the other evening, I started pondering the fact that so many of my articles and recipes are for special evenings or weekend cooking. But what about work nights? Believe me, I certainly am one for opening up a jar of spaghetti sauce and boiling up some pasta. Or tossing some chicken sausages together with some veggies. Or a big salad with some added chicken. Work night dinners need to be quick, easy, and healthy, so I thought I’d start this series where I occasionally will pass along a recipe that fits this description perfectly.

One of the big things these days in the nutrition world is to have a good fat, a healthy protein, and a complex carbohydrate in one meal. This dinner brings together all three, healthy olive oil for the fat, some lean beef, and lentil beans. Add some spices and it is dinner! The only thing that really takes any time is cooking the lentils, but you can either make them in advance, or put them on to cook when you get in the door. Once you put them in boiling water, it takes about 30 minutes for them to get soft, so you don’t need to hover around the stove, you can go off and do other things.

From beginning to end, once the lentils are cooked this takes about 15 minutes at the most to put together. And this can be versatile too; I thought some mushrooms might be a great addition, or if you have some leftover rice or another grain, you could toss those in too. Add a simple green salad and you have dinner for a work night!

Beef and Lentil Hash
Serves 2

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
½ of a large onion, finely chopped
½ pound beef
About 1 1/2 cups cooked brown lentils
A few dashes of curry powder
A dash of cayenne pepper (optional for those who aren’t chili heads!)
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Warm the olive oil in a medium-sized skillet. Add the onion and cook until soft.
2. Add the beef and cook until done.
3. Add the lentils and spices. Dinner is ready!

Cook’s Notes:
• To cook the lentils, take a medium-sized saucepan, fill with water, and bring to a boil. Stir in ½ cup of lentils and simmer until soft, about 30 minutes or so.
• If your beef is rather fatty and gives off a lot of grease, just drain it in a colander before adding the lentils and spices.
• I didn’t measure the spices, I just tossed in enough to flavor the dish. You can do the same; experiment by adding as much or as little as you would like!

Lentil Mushroom Soup with Barley

A few weeks back I was sitting with a friend in a bakery and he was eating what looked like a mushroom and lentil soup with maybe some barley in it. It looked and smelled delicious, so good I actually pondered grabbing a spoon and joining him! I actually never caught the true name of the soup, but since I was on my way to the grocery store, I added lentils and chicken broth to my list, making a mental note I had some barley in the larder.

During the month of December which is dark, cold, filled with way too many sweets, a hearty and cozy soup like this is just perfect for lunches and even dinner. I found this a perfect comfort soup; warm, flavorful, healthy, and the best thing of all, super inexpensive!

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Lentil Mushroom Soup with Barley
Makes 4-5 cups, but can easily be doubled.
Takes 30-40 minutes from start to finish

I like the heartier flavor of baby bella mushrooms in this soup; it adds a certain earthiness to the broth. To save money on the grocery bill, buy just the right amount of lentils and barley in bulk.  

2 teaspoons of olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, large, finely minced
1 medium onion, minced
2 carrots, peeled and diced finely
2 cups chopped mushrooms
½ cup brown lentils
½ cup pearled barley
4-plus cups chicken or vegetable broth, or water
A splash of white wine (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. When warm, add the garlic, onion, and carrots, cook until the onions are transluscent and the carrots soft. Add the mushrooms and stir until they start to lose their juices. Add the broth, and lentils and barley. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook until the lentils and barley are finished cooking. Add more water or broth to the soup to thin it out if needed. Add a couple splashes of white wine for flavor to the broth if using.

Cook’s Notes: While this is tasty without herbs, I thought perhaps some thyme might be a nice addition. Also, if you have any spinach or kale in the fridge, it wouldn’t hurt to add those as well.

Springtime Challenge 2: Greek Lentil Salad

Another pantry-cleaning recipe. This is loosely based on a Cooking Light recipe from the early 1990s. I have no recollection if this is even close to the original, but this in my take on it. If you wanted to serve warm with watercress, it’s delicious, but it’s also tasty without. I discovered as I was mixing this together I was out of red wine vinegar. Horrors! Then I realized I had only a couple of teaspoons of sherry vinegar left! I figured apple cider would add too much flavor, so I ended up using rice vinegar. It was an decent substitute, but I wouldn’t use it again. This served over greens makes for a great lunch or as a side salad or main dish for supper.

Greek Lentil Salad

Again, apologies for the approximations. I make this by eyeballing the ingredients with frequent tastings.

 

1 cup dried lentils
3-4 garlic cloves, finely minced
Oregano, preferably Greek
Red wine vinegar
Crumbled feta cheese

1. Bring 2-3 cups of water to a boil. Add lentils, and cook in a gentle simmer until cooked, 25-30 minutes or so. While lentils are cooking, mince the garlic.

2. When the lentils are finished cooking, drain off any excess water, and transfer to a bowl. Add garlic and mix. Add 2-3 tablespoons of the vinegar, or to taste. Add a dash or two of the oregano. Be careful, you don’t want the herb to overpower the salad. Add 1/4 cup of feta, or more if desired.

3. Serve warm or cold!