Pebbles in the Snow Stew

This stew is a combination of succulent lentils in a creamy white vegetable sauce. Visually, it reminds me of the little pebbles pulled up off the ground and mixed in with the snow when we clean the driveway after a storm. Not so poetic maybe, but the meal is divine!

Yield: 2 servings as a main course, 4 to 6 servings as a side dish

What you need:

  • 1/3 cup French green lentils, sprouted or soaked for several hours and drained
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • freshly grated nutmeg (not much, a pinch or two)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil (optional)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1-1/2 cups small diced celeriac (celery root), divided
  • 1-1/2 cups small diced parsnip, divided
  • 1 cup diced caulifower stem (or chopped florets if you already got rid of the stem)
  • 2 cups small cauliflower florets
  • water
  • salt

What you do:

  1. Place the lentils in a 2 quart saucepan or pot. Add water to cover the lentils by about 1/2”. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Hard-boil the lentils for 5 minutes or so, skimming off any scum that forms.
  2. Lower the heat to medium low and add the bay leaf, the tarragon, a bit of freshly grated nutmeg and 1/8 teaspoon (half) of the marjoram. Also add half of the celeriac (3/4 cup) and half of the parsnip (3/4 cup) . Cover and let simmer until the lentils are tender, 15-20 minutes.
  3. While the lentils are cooking, heat a frying pan or larger saucepan or pot on medium heat. When hot, add the oil and onion. Stir to coat in oil and then add the remaining marjoram, celeriac, parsnip and the cauliflower stems. Sauté until browned in some spots. When things start to brown, turn the heat down and continue to sauté for 7-8 minutes, until the vegetables are softening.
  4. Add water to come to the same level as the sautéed vegetables in the pot or pan. Salt to desired level (this will get blended into a sauce, so salt accordingly. Or salt less and then add some miso when you blend!) Bring to a boil, cover and then lower heat. Simmer briskly until the vegetables are very soft and all the yummy bits have gone from the pan or pot into the simmer water.
  5. Getting back to the lentils now. Check to see if they’re done. When they are, salt them a little (or a lot, what you like really), and lay the cauliflower florets over the top in a single layer. Cover the pot again and continue to cook until the cauliflower is done, you may need to add a little water. Set aside until the sauce is done. Important note: Keep in mind that you’re aiming for is that there will be no more liquid in the lentils once the dish is ready to blend with the sauce. If there is remaining liquid, it will be dark brown. Now dark brown + white sauce = slush stew rather than pebbles in the snow. It will still taste fabulous; but the visual won’t be quite so stunning…
  6. Back to the sauce! When the sauce veggies are nice and soft, transfer the cooking water and vegetables to a blender (high speed is preferred as it will give you a much silkier sauce, but any blender will do). Blend until completely smooth and creamy. Taste, adjusting as desired.
  7. Pour the finished sauce over the lentils and vegetables. Stir gently to blend.
  8. Serve immediately, with fresh parsley to garnish if desired. The leftovers will taste pretty darned good too however. If there are any.

Variations:

  • Feel free to add a clove of garlic to the sauce, or the lentils, or both.
  • The marjoram and tarragon can be swapped out for Herbes de Provence if desired.

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