Leeks and Chard and Lentils and Rice

I’ve been leaning a lot on lentils lately. I’m really trying to cut down on my intake of soy, especially non-fermented soy like tofu and soymilk (as opposed to miso and tempeh) and this has left me without a staple source of protein. Unlike beans, which I fear for their pre-soaking needs, their long cooking times, their gassy powers, lentils are quick and still packed with protein, a potential answer to “What’s for dinner?” when I didn’t have the foresight to ask the question a day ahead (which is basically every night).

So I was intrigued to come across a recipe for Risotto with Swiss Chard and French Lentils (how international!). Rice plus legumes equals happy, happy complete proteins, chock full of all the amino acids I need for a healthy vegetarian existence. In addition to trying to avoid soy and still get enough protein (while being vegetarian and trying to eat local and getting all my produce just from my box) I am also embarking on a low-key but concerted effort to get my freezer stocked with some meal options. There are nights when even my old stand-by of tofu, greens, and quinoa wouldn’t be a fast enough answer to the dinner question, so it would be great to have some options tucked away and waiting for such desperate times. Risotto is one of those dishes I’ve seen mentioned as freezing and reheating well, so I thought I would combine all my new pursuits and give this one a try.

Risotto with Lentils, Swiss Chard, and Leeks

I made the recipe exactly as written, except for my actual risotto-cooking technique, which is a quick ‘n’ dirty way from an old Sunset Magazine cookbook that we always use in my family and the risotto comes out just fine, thank you very much. I just don’t have the patience to do the whole gently-simmering-broth added one cup at a time thing. I would just never make risotto.

I made the risotto for my mom and myself the other day for lunch when she was visiting (I had already cooked both the lentils and the chard the day before, as they need to be cooked separately first). It has a bit of an odd texture, as even French lentils have a graininess to them that feels a little strange when your mouth is expecting only the creaminess of the risotto. But it has a hearty, chewy quality that my mom and I both enjoyed, and it made terrific leftovers for breakfast over the next few days. I also did manage to freeze one serving of it, so I will have to report later on how it does with reheating.

When I opened my freezer to take the above photograph, I got a small glimpse of why my freezer can be so packed but whenever I look in there for something to eat it registers as “empty.” In addition to the risotto in this shot, you can see the almond meal I use for gluten-free baking and a container of plain lentils and a bag of pesto cubes. But everything else – the butternut squash dumplings, the ribollita, the massive hunks of potato-rosemary bread – are in there as a result of their wheatiness. Whenever I give in to culinary temptation and make something that contains wheat, I eat a little bit, my body reminds me that wheat and I do not mix, and then I stuff the rest in my freezer. It was good to take a hard look at what’s in my freezer – I think there may be some frozen-food trading in my future!

5 comments on “Leeks and Chard and Lentils and Rice

  1. Rachael says:

    As for the beans-and-foresight problem, have you considered a pressure cooker? I pretty much never soak beans — I just use a pressure cooker. This does not, of course, solve the gas issue if that is a problem for you. Not that lentils are bad mind — I have two varieties in my cabinet now — just that one can’t live without pintos or black beans.๐Ÿ™‚

  2. scrumptious says:

    Rachael – I have such limited cabinet and counter space that I tend not to think in terms of “what equipment can I add” but rather “what can I get away with with the equipment that I already have?” For years I’ve relied on canned beans, but now for reasons of expense and energy conservation I have stopped buying them, so I’m a little lost in the beans-from-scratch world and perhaps it might be worth an investment, both financial and counter-space-wise!

    How long do beans take in a pressure cooker? Can you cook them in one with kombu (the seaweed that reduces the gassy enzymes)? Bean-induced gas isn’t an issue for me but it is for some of the other people I cook for… and then it becomes my issue!

  3. Rachael says:

    Well, another pot is .. just another pot. But you can always use it as a regular pot (without the pressure lid) too, as well as using it for pressure cooking. Canned beans themselves take up a lot of space (but then so does a big sack of dry beans — though obviously less than canned ones).

    The pressure cooker I have was ~$50 (4 quarts). You can always add whatever spices or anything you want to the beans while its cooking — onions are a very common one. People pressure cook entire meals, which certainly have very mixed contents (I just use it for beans at the moment.) Most of the beans I use take 20 minutes or so at pressure .. so maybe 10 minutes to boil up to pressure, then you reduce the heat and “simmer” (but it’s still at pressure) and cook for the recommended time. I’ve had good luck with the information here:

    http://fastcooking.ca/pressure_cookers/cooking_times_pressure_cooker.php

    There is a chart part way through with specifically bean cooking times depending on whether you soak them and how you let the pressure release.

  4. scrumptious says:

    Rachael – Ooh! Thanks for all the info. I just realized I DO own a pressure cooker, I think. And it currently *is* taking up too much space. But that is space it has already claimed. I bought it off craigslist as a pressure canner, but haven’t organized myself to start canning yet. I am a little intimidated by pressure cooking in general, but that link looks like a great resource to start with. Thanks!

    How did you come across my blog? Are you an Eatwell subscriber?

  5. Rachael says:

    I’m pretty sure my roommates and I have subscribed to the same box, yes (well temporary on hold at the moment as I was travelling and we couldn’t finish everything). I think I googled one night what to do with some ingredient .. and got your blog. I read through a little and realized you were getting the same CSA box!๐Ÿ™‚

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