Photo by Randi Baird, food styling by Suzanne Lenzer and prop styling by Maeve Sheridan
You can have this meal on the table in less time than it takes me to run a mile. Ok, I admit I am the slowest runner I know (I am more of a jogger, really) –but still, that is a fast dinner. The key is taking advantage of canned lentils for a tender and hearty instant protein, as well as vegetables which require very little prep—pre-washed baby spinach and grape tomatoes. They are seasoned in the skillet with chopped shallot, fresh thyme and balsamic vinegar, then dolloped with creamy, rich ricotta cheese which is warmed slightly in the skillet too. A sprinkle of fresh basil leaves takes you, deliciously, to the finish line for the win. I like to serve mine with some whole grain, sourdough toast or baguette.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup chopped shallot
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, or 3/4 teaspoon dried
2 (15.5-ounce) cans lentils, drained and rinsed (about 3 cups)
1 tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
2 cups lightly packed baby spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese *
6 large fresh basil leaves
Heat the oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until they have softened, about one minute. Stir in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds more. Stir in the thyme, then add the lentils, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper, and just stir enough to combine. Add the tomatoes and spinach, lower the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until warmed through and the vegetables have wilted, 5 minutes.
Make a well in the lentil mixture and dollop 1/4 cup of the ricotta cheese into it. Repeat with the remaining ricotta, creating separate wells. Cover and cook until the cheese is slightly warmed but not melted, 2 minutes. Sprinkle with the basil and serve.
Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days
Makes 4 servings
Serving size: 1 cup lentil mixture and 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
Per serving: Calories 340; Total Fat 12g; (Sat Fat 4g, Mono Fat 1g, Poly Fat 7g); Protein 22g; Carb 38g; Fiber 17g; Cholesterol 20mg; Sodium 630mg; Total Sugar 6g (Added Sugar 0g)
Excellent source of: Calcium, Fiber, Iron, Manganese, Protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K
Good source of: folate, phosphorus, selenium
* Many cheeses are not technically vegetarian because they are made using an animal-derived enzyme called rennet. To make this recipe officially vegetarian, use cheese labeled “vegetarian,” or “no animal enzymes.”