Lentil barley stew: It’s what’s for dinner

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Nature’s kitchen

Just the word stew brings a smile to my face, especially at this very moment as the air is brittle and sodden with thick mist.

Stew is warm, hearty and a nutritious amalgamation of nature’s most choice ingredients. I’m also partial to thick versus watery soup type dishes. Even writing those few opening sentences about winter’s most ideal dish makes me long to be in comfy clothes at home with nothing pressing on me except filling my belly with palate-enticing goodness, while I relax in a toasty kitchen.

Today we’ll be making a stew filled with organic ingredients and fiber. I first made this recipe a few weeks ago while my mother was in town for a visit. As I’ve gotten older one of my favorite pastimes has become cooking with my mother.

Food is one of the few substances that brings people together, creates conversation, while serving one of the essential basic needs: nourishing the body and soul so it thrives.

On a side note, I recommend everyone cook with someone dear to them at least once, as being able to share the creative process of food with another person is simply beautiful.

Now, down to business.

The recipe for lentil barley stew: one medium carrot, one small onion and one celery rib, all chopped; one garlic clove, minced, one teaspoon fresh ginger, minced, two teaspoons olive oil, 1/4 cup dried lentils, rinsed, 1/4 cup medium pearl barley, one can (10 ounces) diced tomatoes with mild green chilies, one cup water, one cup vegetable broth, 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin and one tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce.

I selected this recipe as it’s very easy to prepare, delicious, filled-with fiber, the benefits of which we talked about in the last column, and incorporates fresh ginger.

Ginger is one of my favorite spices and the root is quite inexpensive. When you first cut into it the tingly, musty aroma awakens and stimulates the mind.

Its smell is incredible.

Ginger also has a plethora of natural medicinal benefits. It’s most commonly know for its effectiveness as a digestive aid, as it increases the production of digestive fluids and saliva, helping relieve indigestion, gas pains and stomach cramping. It also can treat motion sickness, nausea and morning sickness. It’s therapeutic properties effectively stimulate circulation of the blood, removing toxins from the body, cleansing the bowels and kidneys, and nourishing the skin.

I’m a fan.

On another side note, I recommend making your own ginger tea. To do so buy more ginger root than needed for the stew’s purpose, skin and thinly slice and dice the excess. Put the ginger on a cookie sheet and place in the oven for about 20 minutes at 200 degrees. Once dried store in a container and when you desire some ginger tea bust out the french press, dump in a few spoon-fulls of the ginger and boiling water and let steep.

Back to the stew.

To get started, in a large sauce pan saute the carrot, onion, celery, garlic and ginger until crisp-tender. Add lentils and barley; cook for three minutes, stirring occasionally.

Next stir in the tomatoes, water, broth and cumin. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add soy-sauce and simmer an additional 20 to 30 minutes or until lentils and barley are tender.

The recipe yields three cups and one-and-a-half cups packs 304 calories, 5 g fat, 0 cholesterol, 1,356 mg sodium, 45 g carbohydrates, 15 g fiber and 11 g protein.

Here’s to good food, good company, good conversation and treating oneself right.

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