Red Lentils with Chard

I’ve made some pretty crucial discoveries over the past few months:
1. I am capable of living without a cell phone, microwave, and cable, all at the same time.
2. Memoirs are my literary addiction. I can’t stop reading them.
3. Life is a whole lot easier when you’re just living out of a backpack and your biggest concern is how many more nights you want to spend in a $5 beach bungalow in Southeast Asia.
4. Chard isn’t gross. Actually, it’s pretty good.

I think number 4 on that list is particularly significant. I’ve always been proud of the fact that I’m a really un-picky eater. Except for meat, there’s not much I won’t eat, and I am especially fond of vegetables. Except, right up until last week, Swiss Chard. I don’t know why I thought I hated it, but I know my mom made it a few times when I was little and I must have had a bad experience, because I stayed away from it for years. But at the farmer’s market the other day, it just looked so pretty and healthy, I decided to give it another chance. I figured mixing it in with red lentils and lots of spices would make it almost undetectable, and from there I could work my way up to eating it in a more natural state. Sure enough, this did the trick, and a few days later I put a bunch of it in a chard-centric version of this soup.

I love the Indian method of cooking spices in hot oil to really develop their flavor, then stirring them into the dish just before serving it. Because lentils cook so quickly, this is a pretty fast thing to throw together, and when served over rice, you have a complete protein plus vegetables all in one bowl. I love adding yogurt as a garnish because the creaminess and tang compliment the dish so well, but if you’re vegan you can skip it.

Recipe:
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 serrano chiles, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 1/2 cups red lentils
4 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 can (or about 1 1/2 cups) cooked garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
3 big handfuls chard, cut into ribbons
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp ground coriander

Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes. Stir in the turmeric, garlic, and serranos and cook for another 2 minutes.

Add the lentils, water, and salt, lower heat, and simmer, covered (stirring a few times) for about 25 minutes, or until lentils have mostly disintegrated. Stir in the garbanzos and chard and cook until the greens are soft. Taste and add salt if necessary.

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a small saucepan. When hot, add the cumin, mustard, and coriander and cover, shaking the pan for about 30 seconds (the seeds will splatter and pop). Stir into the lentil mixture.

Serve with plain yogurt, if desired.

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