Stovetop Lentils with Veggies

By Ann Fulton

Colorful vegetables and hearty lentils come together with ease in this one pot dish that can be served as a filling vegetarian stew, a flavorful side dish, or a restaurant-worthy base for seared salmon or another protein of choice. 
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Colorful vegetables and hearty lentils come together with ease in this one pot dish that can be served as a filling vegetarian stew, a flavorful side dish, or a restaurant-worthy base for seared salmon or another protein of choice. 

 

This meal goes way back. I first discovered the delicious brilliance of plating salmon on a bed of lentils in Sara Foster’s 2005 Fresh Everyday cookbook.

The concept struck me as so elegant–something I would most definitely order at a restaurant–yet the entire meal was deceptively easy to pull off at home.

Foster’s recipe started by sauteing pancetta, removing it to a plate, and then proceeding to cook the lentils in water and a few simple flavorings. The pancetta was then sprinkled as a crisp, bacon-like topping upon serving.

Ina Garten was also a big influence during my newlywed days. Her original cookbook, The Barefoot Contessa, spoke to my cooking sensibilities: simply ingredients coming together in deliciously easy ways. 

Over the years, the lentil recipe that family and friends so enjoyed (often under the incredibly easy Restaurant-Style Pan Seared Salmon) evolved into a hybrid of Foster’s and Garten’s, the latter trading the pancetta for a colorful array of vegetables.

Though you could always incorporate pancetta–or even bacon–as described above, the veggie version is not lacking in flavor, plus it holds its own as a satisfying meatless meal. I typically prepare the dish with chicken broth, but a simple swap with vegetable broth is all that’s needed for a vegan entree. 

How to serve these lentils:

  • As is. Once cooked, the lentils truly need nothing extra to provide a deliciously satisfying meal.
  • Sprinkle with fresh herbs: a hint of green, whether a sprig of thyme or a dusting of chopped parsley, adds visual appeal and a touch of fresh flavor. 
  • For a restaurant-worthy entree, use the lentils as a base for grilled, broiled, or pan-seared fish, like Restaurant-Style Pan Seared Salmon.
  • Not a seafood fan? Top the lentils with grilled chicken…
  • Or simply serve them as a side dish with your favorite proteins, from steak and pork to chicken and fish.
  • Layer a vegetable puree (like mashed potatoes or cauliflower) on a plate or shallow bowl and then top with the lentils. It’s a filling meal as is, but you could add a third layer with the seared salmon.  

A quick photo overview:

Colorful vegetables and hearty lentils come together with ease in this one pot dish that serves as a filling vegetarian meal or can be used as a base for seared salmon or another protein of choice. 

Fresh, colorful vegetables and a few key flavorings go a long way towards adding delicious appeal to this wholesome lentil recipe. The vegetables may be chopped up to a day in advance and stored in an airtight bag or container in the refrigerator. 

Colorful vegetables and hearty lentils come together with ease in this one pot dish that serves as a filling vegetarian meal or can be used as a base for seared salmon or another protein of choice. 

Though lentils don’t technically need to be soaked, skipping it in this recipe means they will take longer to cook AND additional broth would be needed. I often do this while I’m chopping the vegetables (or if I’ve already prepped the veggies, while I’m folding laundry or reading the mail!). 

Colorful vegetables and hearty lentils come together with ease in this one pot dish that serves as a filling vegetarian meal or can be used as a base for seared salmon or another protein of choice. 

After the vegetables are sautéed and the flavorings added, the soaked and drained lentils, broth, and remaining veggies are stirred in. The mixture then simmers, covered, for about 20 minutes. A drizzle of vinegar at the end adds restaurant-worthy nuance–and the flavor improves over time, making leftovers a treat. 

Colorful vegetables and hearty lentils come together with ease in this one pot dish that can be served as a filling vegetarian stew, a flavorful side dish, or a restaurant-worthy base for seared salmon or another protein of choice. 

Serve the veggie-studded lentils as a side dish, as a hearty vegan stew, or as a base for Restaurant-Style Salmon.

Colorful vegetables and hearty lentils come together with ease in this one pot dish that can be served as a filling vegetarian stew, a flavorful side dish, or a restaurant-worthy base for seared salmon or another protein of choice. 

To plate with the salmon: Scoop a generous serving of lentils onto a plate or shallow bowl and place the seared salmon on top. It’s easy yet elegant, soul warming and satisfying. For another serving idea, try layering a vegetable puree (like mashed potatoes or cauliflower) on a plate or shallow bowl and then topping with the lentils. It’s a filling meal as is, but you could add a third layer with the seared salmon. 

Stovetop Lentils with Veggies
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
Colorful vegetables and hearty lentils come together with ease in this one pot dish that serves as a filling vegetarian meal or can be used as a base for seared salmon or another protein of choice. 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup (190g/6.7oz) brown or green lentils
  • 3 tablespoons (42ml) olive oil
  • 1 medium to large yellow onion, chopped (about 1½ cups)
  • 1 large leek, rinsed, sliced in half lengthwise, and chopped (white and light green parts only; about 1½ cups)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or ¼ teaspoon dried
  • 2 tablespoons (32g) tomato paste
  • 1 cup chopped celery (about 2 stalks)
  • 1 cup chopped carrots (about 2 carrots)
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can reduced sodium chicken broth (use vegetable broth for a vegetarian/vegan alternative)
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) red wine vinegar (may substitute balsamic vinegar)
Instructions

Place the lentils in a heat-proof bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside for 15 minutes, then drain. (Note: Don’t omit this step. Though lentils don’t technically have to be soaked, skipping the step in this recipe means they will take a little longer to cook AND the amount of broth when cooking will not be enough.)

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large, lidded sauté pan or Dutch oven. When hot, add the onions, leeks, salt, and pepper and sauté over medium heat for about 8 minutes, or until the onions are lightly golden in spots. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for 30 seconds or until the garlic is fragrant. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for another 30-60 seconds. Add the drained lentils, celery, carrots, and chicken broth. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then cover and reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer (low to medium low heat) for 20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender but not mushy. (Check a few minutes early and add time if necessary. Older lentils may take longer to soften. If this is the case and moisture runs low, add another splash of broth or water as needed.)

Stir in the vinegar—make sure the measuring spoon is level or just slightly scant—you can always add more. (Did you know? The “meniscus,” or little bulge of liquid that forms when a cup is overfilled but not quite overflowing, can result in more liquid, and in this case more tang, than you may want.) Taste and add an extra sprinkle of salt, pepper, or vinegar, as desired.

Serve as a side dish, as a base for the salmon recipe linked in the recipe notes, or as a hearty meatless stew.

Notes

Optional protein topper: For a restaurant-worthy meal that’s easy enough for a weeknight dinner, I love to top the lentils with this recipe for Pan Seared Salmon.

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Comments

  1. Louise Brewer

    I made the vegan version of this and it was delicious. I’m going to make it again for Easter so that I have a vegan alternative to my main dish of chicken tetrazzini. The only thing I’ll do different is to check the lentils a little earlier so they stay a bit firmer.

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Louise, I’m thrilled you made the lentils and that they will be making a repeat appearance soon. What a lovely addition to your Easter menu. Thank you also for the reminder to check early. I noted that in the recipe, as cook time for lentils can vary based on age as well as precise level of simmer.

      Reply