Ratatouille with mushrooms and black lentils

My parents and I have been isolating from each other during the COVID-19 crisis since we live in separate households. During this time, any time I "needed" something from them (some laundry of mine they had, medication that came in the mail for my pony, a particular grocery I wanted, or pretty much anything else because they are my parents and they spoil me), they would leave it on the front porch for me to pick up. Well, since my mom discovered the Peekskill Farmer's Market, this has turned into her asking me if I want anything and then completely fulfilling my grocery list. Yes, as I said, they spoil me.

They got me this beautiful haul recently and I knew exactly what to do with it - ratatouille! Ratatouille is one of my favorite summer dishes. It originates in southern France, and recipes vary widely. It's usually some combination of summer vegetables stewed with tomatoes, but in order to make it more of a hearty meal instead of a side dish, I like to add lentils and mushrooms. The black lentils I used here don't do much for the color - if you'd like to maintain a beautiful vibrant color, go with red lentils or leave them out. However, I like the flavor and texture of the black lentils, and I don't mind the darker color!

Ingredients (serves 4-5 over pasta, rice, couscous, or quinoa)

2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 an onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 bell pepper (any color), diced

1/2 lb mushrooms of choice, diced (I used shiitake here)

1/2 zucchini, cut into quarters and sliced

1/2 yellow squash or yellow zucchini, cut into quarters and sliced (you can also just use 1 whole zucchini)

2 large tomatoes, large diced, or 1 15oz can stewed or diced tomatoes

1/2 cup lentils

1 cup water

Large handful of basil, sliced thinly

Salt, to taste (about 1-2 tsp total)

  1. Add your olive oil to a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion with a pinch of salt and saute until translucent, about 3 minutes.

  2. Add the garlic, bell pepper, and mushrooms to the pan with another pinch of salt. Saute an additional 5-7 minutes until the mushrooms have released their moisture and the bell pepper has softened.

  3. Add the zucchini and squash to the pan, stir well, and saute an additional 5-7 minutes until softened.

  4. At this point, add the tomatoes, lentils, water, and basil and stir everything together well.

  5. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring occasionally. If the pot becomes too dry, add 1/2 cup of water to loosen.

  6. When the lentils are tender, taste the dish for salt and serve over pasta, rice, quinoa, or couscous. You can also eat it on its own. I like to sprinkle it with vegan parmesan.

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