February is Heart Health Month and here, at Auburn Lane, we are focused on women’s health issues. Libby and I shared a bit about Women’s Heart Health and tips on healthy eating here.

Because I have a loved one who has to maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle, I have become a bit obsessed with changing our diet to reflect those needs but that doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice flavour and general deliciousness. So, we can no longer have a meat lover’s three-cheese grease wheel from Pizza Nova but a homemade Neapolitan style pizza with whole wheat/red fife crust, crushed tomatoes, olive oil, fresh buffalo mozzarella and a handful of fresh basil is not only more nutritious, but it’s more delicious in every way.

We are now aiming for fish twice a week and a vegetarian dinner at least twice a week with one night of “what’s for chicken“. We are expanding our consumption of grains to include things like freekah, barley and bulgar in place of white rice, potatoes and white pasta. Polenta has replaced mashed potatoes in many instances and beans and other legumes have become the stars of the show instead of a side piece.

First up is this rich and delicious braise of lentils that we like to top with a poached egg (poached right in the stew because I am lazy and it works), topped with some roasted tomatoes with just a smattering of feta – you can’t eat a ton of it but a bit of sheep’s milk feta is a great way to trick your brain into thinking it’s getting more salt than it really is. Feta is low in saturated fat but high in sodium so don’t use a ton but with a good feta, you get a lot of bang with your buck. You can even drain the brine and fill the tub with tap water if it’s too salty and it will keep for another week or so in the fridge OR you can even pack feta cubes into a glass jar with some herbs and cover it with some heart-healthy olive oil.

This recipe derives its richness from olive oil, it’s saltiness from a bit of feta, crunch from the crispy garlic slices and it’s sexiness from a creamy, runny egg yolk. All that and it’s good for you – just don’t tell anyone.

*more heart-healthy recipes can be found on my blog, The Yum Yum Factor

More adventures in adopting a more heart-healthy diet mean more vegetarian meals with less sodium, healthier fats and a soupçon of cheese to punch it up. We have been having a lot of braised beans like the braised romano beans on polenta that I did for Ontario Beans.

braised romano beans with poached eggs
these beans have become a weekly thing in our house
If you don’t like poached eggs, leave them out but don’t skip on the tomato/feta and the crispy garlic chili oil. This makes more oil than you will use but it’s delicious and you will want to put it on everything so I suggest even doubling the recipe- you will thank me later. Bottom line, my former big meat eater loved it.

Braised Lentils with Poached Egg, Roasted Tomato/Feta and Crispy Garlic/Chili Oil

Serves 4

 

 
Roasted tomatoes
1-pint grape tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp crumbled feta
Put the tomatoes in a small roasting pan – the air fryer is perfect for this small amount. Drizzle with the oil and roast in a 400F oven until the tomatoes just start to wilt and blister. Scatter the feta over the tomatoes, return to the oven or air fryer and cook until the tomatoes start to get tiny brown spots and the cheese looks soft. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Crispy Garlic Chili Oil
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, sliced very thinly
1 tbsp Maras or Aleppo Pepper
1 tbsp Urfa Biber (black turkish chili)
1/4 tsp kosher salt
Heat the oil over medium in a small pan and brown the garlic slices until they just start to turn golden. Pour the garlic and oil into a small, heatproof bowl and let cool for a minute before you stir in the two chili flakes and salt. Set aside
 
Braised Lentils
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 parsnip, chopped
1/2 head of fennel, chopped
3 or 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tbsp of tomato paste
approx 1 tbsp ras el hanout (depends on brand, how spicy it is – taste to adjust)
1 1/4 cup French or beluga lentils – green lentils if you can’t find either of those
4-6 cups vegetable or chicken broth, low sodium
1 tsp kosher salt (if you use sodium-free broth, you can use 1 tsp kosher salt)
4 cubes frozen spinach
4 eggs
Pulse the onion, carrot, parsnip and fennel in a food processor until it’s finely chopped. Heat the oil in a wide, deep sauté pan or a pot over medium meat. Throw in the chopped vegetables and cook, stirring from time to time, for about ten minutes until soft. Add in the tomato paste and keep cooking for another ten minutes, until it starts to brown and almost melt into a puree. If it looks like it could burn, add in a splash of water from time to time. Add in the ras el hanout and cook for another minute or two, until fragrant before you add in the lentils and about 4 cups of broth. Let it come to a boil and then lower the heat and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. At that point, add in the frozen spinach cubes and cook for another ten minutes or so – keep checking and when your lentils are soft, it’s finished – if you use the more common, green lentil, it might take a bit longer for them to get soft so checking on them after 20 minutes is important. If it starts to get too thick during the last bit, keep adding a bit more broth or water as you want it to be a bit soupy but think more thick stew than brothy soup.
You can make it ahead of time and reheat it if you like. When it’s time to eat, make sure the lentil braise is simmering and crack four eggs into the lentils, cover the pan and lower the heat and bit and let the eggs poach for about 6 minutes or so. You want the egg yolk to remain creamy so keep an eye on it so the eggs don’t overcook.
To Serve:
carefully –  using a large serving spoon and avoiding the eggs, spoon some lentils into each of four shallow bowls. Then, using the spoon, scoop up an egg and lay on top of the lentils in each bowl. Spoon 1/4 of the tomatoes and feta on the top and then drizzle a bit of the crispy garlic chili oil (stir well before spooning it out), making sure that you get some slices of the crispy garlic. If you thought to keep the fronds from the fennel, add some of those for colour.