Why do crushed tomatoes taste completely different from diced tomatoes? I actually googled this very question, and my mad iPhone typing skills left a lot to be interpreted, so much in fact that google wrote to me: “did you mean: why do forced marriages work better?” I can’t make this stuff up. I hope my husband doesn’t go through my browsing history. Anyway, back to the tomatoes. I once was making chili when I was in college and there was something off about it, so I called my dad, a self-made chili master, in a panic. He asked me to go through the ingredients I used, and so I started reciting “onions, green peppers, crushed tomatoes…” “Wait,” my dad said, “crushed tomatoes? That’s wrong, you need diced tomatoes.” I learned my lesson that day, make sure you are using the right tomato for the job. So if you happen to have a jar of crushed tomatoes lying around that you bought on accident (you needed diced!), here is how you are going to use it up.
It is worth seeking out the glass jars of diced and crushed tomatoes. Tomatoes are highly acidic and can draw BPA out of can lining much more than other canned foods. You can see more and more “BPA-free lining” claims on cans these days, however I am still skeptical. BPA is a compound found in the epoxy resin that coats the inside of metal cans to keep the food from coming in contact with the metal, and if they are taking it out, they are replacing it with something else. As a general rule, I try and stay away from cans, really the only thing I use out of a can is coconut milk. If you are still buying your beans in cans, please stop and buy those beans dried out of the bulk bins! Unfortunately, jarred tomato products are more expensive than canned, but here I think it’s worth the extra cost, especially if you are cooking for young kids. Even better, find someone that cans (why isn’t it called “jars”?) their own homegrown tomatoes in the summer and stock up!
I don’t remember a lot of the things I ate growing up as a kid, but I do remember my mom making goulash. It was always warm, comforting, and delicious. My kids love this in a bowl, with a dipping cup of shredded cheddar on the side. Let them sprinkle the cheese themselves, it makes all the difference in the world. The best part about this goulash is that it completely vegetarian, with protein-packed lentils as the base. If you are new to lentils, this would be a great place to warm up to them. Lentils are ridiculously cheap and very easy to cook as they don’t require any soaking time like most dried beans do. Lentils are technically a legume, along with peas and peanuts, and are full of iron, fiber and a variety of vitamins. I buy them from the bulk bins. I use du Puy lentils (also called French lentils) in this recipe because they really hold their shape and texture well after being cooked, unlike red or green lentils.
I’m not even sure if I can call this goulash correctly, as Wikipedia claims that goulash is a soup or stew with meat, noodles, vegetables with an emphasis on potatoes, and paprika. Well, there’s no meat here, and no potatoes, but I have the paprika covered. This is what comes to mind when I think of goulash though, and I’m sticking with it. Make this on the next chilly night, serve it up with some bread and salad and scrape your bowls clean.
- 1 cup du Puy lentils (also called French lentils)
- 1 Tbsp ghee (or coconut oil)
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 cups sliced mushrooms, stems removed
- 1 12 oz jar fire roasted red peppers, diced
- ¼ tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp salt
- Fresh ground pepper (about 20 turns of the pepper mill)
- 1 23 oz jar crushed tomatoes (I use Muir Glen organic, which comes in a glass jar)
- 1 Tbsp seeded Dijon mustard
- 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce (I use a vegetarian one - Annie's brand)
- 1 cup dried whole wheat elbow macaroni noodles
- 1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed and chopped very fine (or a few handfuls spinach)
- Fresh grated cheddar cheese, for serving (optional)
- Chopped scallions, for serving (optional)
- Rinse and drain the lentils in a mesh strainer, and add them to a small saucepan. Cover the lentils with a few inches of water, and bring to a boil. Turn down and let simmer on medium heat for around 20 minutes, the lentils should be softened but retain a bit of bite to them.
- At the same time, also place a large saucepan of salted water on the stove and bring to a boil for the pasta.
- While the lentils are cooking, you can get going with the sauce. In a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, melt the ghee or coconut oil over medium heat. Add the onions with a pinch of salt and let cook until turning translucent, about 5 minutes or so.
- Add the garlic, mushrooms, and red peppers with another pinch of salt, and let cook, stirring occasionally for another 5 minutes.
- Add in the smoked paprika, sweet paprika, cumin, another ½ tsp of salt and the black pepper. Let cook another minute.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, mustard, vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir, and cover the pot, turn the heat to low. Leave to cook for about 10 minutes.
- While the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta. Drain and set aside.
- After the lentils are done cooking, drain them. After the sauce has had about 10 minutes of cooking time, add in the lentils and the chopped chard. Stir and let the greens wilt for a few minutes.
- Scoop out half of the sauce and put it into a glass jar for the freezer. Add the cooked pasta to the other half of the sauce. Ladle the goulash into bowls and serve with shredded cheese and scallions for serving.
I love to use jarred roasted red peppers here because kids often have trouble with the skin on bell peppers. When using roasted peppers, the skin is removed. You can also roast and peel one yourself but I love the shortcut of the jarred kind. Also, the smokiness of the fire roasted variety really compliments the flavors in this dish.
This recipe makes a good amount! I always make the full batch here, however, and take half out before adding the noodles and freeze it for a quick dinner down the line.
Note: Make sure if you are serving this to little ones that you chop the Swiss chard very small. It will wilt and blend into the dish very well if it is chopped, but kids can struggle with large pieces of leafy greens in their dinner, mostly from a texture standpoint.