Spicy Lentil Stew with Peppers and Onions

Sunset  – December 8, 2004

PREP AND COOK TIME: About 45 minutes

MAKES: 6 servings

NOTES: This dish provides a meal’s worth of protein, carbohydrates, and vegetables (plus a lot of fiber), so all you need on the side is a crisp green salad. Firm brown lentils also pair wonderfully with hearty meat flavors, so you may want to try sautéing crumbled lean turkey sausage with the peppers and onion. End on a light note with slices of fragrant fresh pineapple from Hawaii.

3 dried ancho chiles (about 1 oz. total)

1 can (14 oz.) reduced-sodium, fat-skimmed chicken broth

2 cups dried brown lentils, sorted for debris and rinsed

About 1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound red, yellow, and/or green bell peppers (about 2), rinsed, stemmed, seeded, and slivered lengthwise

1 onion (8 oz.), peeled, halved, and slivered lengthwise

2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced or pressed

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro

Reduced-fat sour cream (optional)

1. Remove and discard stems and seeds from ancho chiles; rinse chiles. With scissors, cut chiles into about 1-inch pieces and drop into a blender. Cover with 1 cup boiling water. Let stand until chiles are soft, about 15 minutes, then whirl mixture until smooth.

2. In a 4- to 6-quart pan, combine chile mixture, broth, 1/4 cup water, lentils, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring once or twice, until most of the liquid is absorbed and lentils are tender to bite but not falling apart, 20 to 25 minutes. Add more water if lentils get too dry. 3. Meanwhile, set a 10- to 12-inch frying pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add olive oil, bell peppers, onion, and garlic; cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are tender-crisp to bite, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in cayenne to taste. 4. Spoon lentils into wide, shallow bowls and top with pepper mixture. Sprinkle with the cilantro and salt to taste. Add a spoonful of sour cream if desired. Per serving: 307 cal., 18% (55 cal.) from fat; 20 g protein; 6.1 g fat (0.9 g sat.); 47 g carbo (10 g fiber); 263 mg sodium; 0 mg chol.

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