When my boys were little, they loved Veggie Tales, the series of biblical stories told with a cast of animated vegetables.
Their favorite episode was “Josh And The Big Wall.” Over the course of 20 minutes, Junior Asparagus (as Joshua) and the other vegetables of Israel take a leap of faith and march around the walls of Jericho seven times. When a big horn blows, the walls fall down.
There’s much celebration:
- Songs are sung;
- Lessons are learned;
- And — I like to think — dinner was served.
Perhaps it was this:
A deeply fragrant, assertively flavored stew of lentils, spices and fat, luscious chickpeas.
Chickpeas trace their roots to biblical times, with archaeologists finding evidence of the legumes in ancient Greece, Turkey and … yes, Jericho. Rich in copper, protein, iron and zinc, they carry enough nutrients and heft to make meat an afterthought.
It certainly isn’t needed here. I clipped a version of this recipe last fall from the New York Times’ David Tanis. It was for harira, or the soup Muslims eat to break their Ramadan fast. I’ve been plying my family with it ever since.
This is hearty fare. While the lentils break down and turn silky, the chickpeas maintain shape and just a bit of bite. The tomatoes and onion offer a touch of sweetness; the spices bind everything together with a just-this-side-of-hot complexity. I like to serve the stew with a cooling dab of cilantro- and cumin-spiked yogurt to up the creaminess factor and meld the flavors even more.
This stew requires a minimum of prep time and almost no tending or fussing. The toughest job is remembering to soak the chickpeas overnight. Other than that, you chop an onion, mince some herbs, then combine everything in a big stew pot. A couple of hours later, dinner is served, freeing me to tend to other matters.
Like watching TV with the kids.
Maybe we’ll reprise Veggie Tales.
Chickpea & Lentil Stew (adapted from the New York Times)
This makes a big pot. Eat some now and freeze the rest. It stores beautifully.
- 1 cup dried chickpeas
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled & minced
- 1 tablespoon dried ginger
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 4 tablespoons chopped cilantro, divided
- 2 tablespoons chopped celery leaves
- 1 cup brown lentils, rinsed and picked over
- 1 cup red lentils, rinsed and picked over
- 8 cups water
- 1/3 cup Greek yogurt
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
The day before you plan to make this stew, cover the chickpeas with water and let them soak, uncovered, for at least 24 hours.
Heat the olive oil in a large pot.
Add the onion. Season it with salt and pepper, then saute until it just begins to take on color, about 8 minutes.
Add the garlic, ginger, pepper, turmeric, ground cumin, saffron, cayenne and cinnamon stick, plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Stir well for 2 minutes.
Pour in the tomatoes (including the juices). Stir in 2 tablespoons of the chopped cilantro and all the chopped celery leaves. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce your heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
Drain the chickpeas. Add them to the pot.
Add the red and brown lentils to the pot. Stir in the water. Cover the pot and increase your heat to high. Bring the mixture to a boil.
Reduce the heat to low. Set the pot’s lid slightly ajar and simmer the stew for 30 minutes.
Taste the liquid and add salt. (I find another teaspoon is needed, at least.)
Replace the lid so it partially covers the pot and simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally and making sure the legumes don’t absorb all the water. If the mixture gets too dry, add more water.
After an hour has passed, taste to make sure the lentils and chickpeas are tender and creamy. If the stew seems too loose, simmer for another 20 or 30 minutes with the pot’s lid completely off. Otherwise, turn off the heat and allow the stew to cool slightly.
Combine the yogurt with the remaining cilantro and the cumin seeds. Season with salt and pepper.
Spoon the stew into bowls. Dollop the seasoned yogurt on top. Serve immediately.