A healthy, satisfying, low sodium stew that tastes great alone for a low carb meal, or with bread or pasta.
Servings: 6 (makes about 12 cups total) Sodium: 55 mg per serving Time: 1 1/2 - 2 hours (mostly inactive)
1/2 pound low sodium sausage
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced small
1 medium carrot, diced small
1 stalk of celery, diced small
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried ground sage
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes (optional)
4 cups unsalted chicken broth
1 cup water
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cups lentils (brown or green)
1 tablespoon unsalted mustard (Westbrae's is my favorite)
1 can/jar unsalted tomato paste (6-7 ounces)
1 bunch kale, stems removed and roughly chopped (about 4 cups)
1/4 tsp sugar (white or brown)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
A note on ingredients and substitutions:
---Use whatever sausage fits into your diet, or use my low sodium Italian sausage. I used just half a pound of sausage so that the stew was more lentil heavy but you can easily use a full pound without having to adjust the rest of the recipe otherwise.
---If you don't have smoked paprika, regular sweet paprika works, too. If you have some liquid smoke, you could add about 1 tsp to give it a subtle smokey flavor.
---1 tsp dry mustard can be substituted for unsalted ground mustard.
---Basil or marjoram also work well if you don't have or don't like sage, thyme, or oregano.
---Lentils can be brown or green. Brown lentils will cook a bit faster and be a little bit mushier but both work fine. I don't soak my lentils but if you do, they'll cook a bit faster. To soak, cover the lentils with cold water and let them sit for 1 - 12 hours.
---You can use all broth/stock instead of water. I use 4 cups chicken broth and 1 cup water because I buy my chicken broth in 4 cup containers and I don't want to open a new package just to use 1 cup. Vegetable broth works, too. Note that store bought chicken stock will usually have a lot more sodium than broth (stock is more concentrated than broth). Most unsalted broths should be about 35 mg of sodium per cup.
---Substitute spinach or any other leafy green for kale (although spinach will increase the sodium). Or add a completely different vegetable like mushrooms, peppers, or potatoes.
---Balsamic vinegar gives the stew the most flavor, so if you have just one type of vinegar make it balsamic. I've made this with a combination of balsamic, red wine, white wine, and sherry vinegar and they all work well. Just make sure you have at least 1 tablespoon of balsamic.
1) In a large pot (at least 4 quarts), heat enough oil to cover the bottom of the pot and brown the sausage over medium-high heat. Put the sausage in the hot pot and press it into the bottom, and then just leave it for a minute or two so it can brown. Then turn to brown both sides. Browning the sausage will add more flavor to the stew. Remove the sausage when it's browned, but still a little pink and set aside but leave the oil from the sausage in the pot. You'll add it back to the stew later so it's better if it's still just a little undercooked.
If you're making the sausage using my low sodium Italian sausage recipe, you can mix the meat and spices right in the pot and then transfer to the stove to cook.
2) Add garlic, onion, carrot, celery, smoked paprika, thyme, sage, oregano, and chili peppers to the pot and cook on medium heat for about 5-6 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Add a little more cooking oil if the mixture gets too dry.
3) Rinse the lentils with cold water. Add lentils, chicken broth, water, bay leaf, mustard, and tomato paste to the pot and stir to combine. Bring the stew to a boil and then turn the heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, until the lentils are soft. If you're using brown lentils, they'll cook faster than green lentils. Green lentils may need to cook for as long as 75 minutes. Stir the pot occasionally and if the stew gets too thick, add 1/4 cup of water or broth at a time.
4) When the lentils are soft, add the cooked sausage, kale, and sugar and stir until the kale is wilted and mixed into the stew. Turn off the stove, and stir in the vinegars. Cover and let the stew sit for 10 minutes so the kale can cook. You can serve this right away, but I think it tastes better if you let it sit for at least 30 minutes before serving. Serve with a side salad for a low carb meal, or with bread, pasta, or rice.