Food is a powerful thing. It can evoke a lot of things, from extremely carnal noises, to poignant memories. Tasting some dishes is like taking a walk down memory lane - that first bite and all of a sudden you're six years old, back home, at the family table, your father puttering in the kitchen. At least, that's what this recipe does for me.
As a kid, there were some meals that were family favourites, "regulars" that came around the dinner table every other week, that filled the kitchen with smells both familiar and comforting. "Dinner will be good tonight," it meant. Arroz con Pollo was one of those dishes - chicken breasts and legs baked in the oven with rice, tomatoes, white wine, and peas. But sometimes the rice wouldn't cook right, for whatever reason, and we would have to wait even longer for it to finally emerge from the oven to grace our plates and our bellies. I always found this unbearable - another twenty minutes before dinner can happen? I'd practically bounce with impatience and anticipation.
Yet I had completely forgotten about arroz con pollo, at least, until many weeks ago I came across this post by Joy the Baker (wonderful blog, you should read it if you like cookies and butter) and it brought back all those memories of those family dinners, and all those times I waited desperately for my dad's arroz con pollo to finish cooking. Suffice to say, I was instantly possessed with the desire to bring that dish back into my life. Only...minus the pollo part. Being a vegetarian and all. And I also had no rice either. So I was going to make arroz con pollo. But without the chicken. And the rice. Go figure.
But I was determined. All I needed was wine and a quick-cooking, healthy grain. And I also wasn't going to put it in the oven. Being a terribly impatient cook, and impatient in general, I almost never make baked dishes (I have to prep and cook something on the stove and then put it in the oven to cook more? Who has this kind of patience and cooking endurance??). Yet I knew almost immediately how I was going to do it...it just took over a month for me to make it. And I should not have waited so long, because it was so good, and tasted just like Childhood. (But in a totally happy, non-creepy/abused/abandoned swingset/sad music kind of way.)
So I encourage you to please, make this dish. Not because it will taste like happy memories (unless you also have a soft-spot for arroz con pollo) but because not only is it delicious, it is amazingly easy to throw together, inexpensive, and healthy. And oh, hey, it's vegan too. Shazam! Do it.
Quinoa, Lentil & Tomato Stew
This dish is so simple and easy to make, but so delicious. It's full of fibre and protein, thanks to the quinoa and lentils, but if you don't have quinoa you could also use millet, which is a bit cheaper than quinoa, but is still healthy and gluten-free (in case that's a concern).
2 tsp Olive Oil (or other cooking oil)
1 small - medium Yellow Onion
2 - 3 Garlic Cloves
1 cup Dry White Wine (I just bought a bottle of cooking wine for $3. You should too.)
1 28 oz can Diced Tomatoes
1 cup Vegetable Broth or Water
1/2 cup Uncooked Quinoa
1/2 cup Uncooked Red Lentils
2 cups Frozen Peas
1 tsp Paprika
1/2 tsp Cayenne (optional)
Black Pepper & Salt to taste
Makes approximately 4 servings.
1. Coarsely chop onion and mince garlic. Heat up a medium-sized pot over medium heat, add oil, then onion and garlic, and a generous pinch of freshly ground black pepper. Saute over low-medium heat for about 7 - 10 minutes, until onions start to turn translucent.
2. Add wine, broth (or water), canned tomatoes, quinoa, lentils, peas and spices all at once. Stir together, cover, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn heat to low and simmer until quinoa and lentils are cooked, 15 - 20 minutes.
3. Once cooked, serve immediately, or store in the fridge for up to 5 days. Alternately, you could freeze leftovers for up to 2 months. This dish reheats well, although you may want to add a tablespoon or two of water when heating up on the stove or in the microwave.