Have you ever wanted to live or study in another country? My advice: DO IT! A summer. A semester. A year. How ever long you can do it. I promise you it will be one of the best decisions you ever make in your life. Find a 2-week long language course or volunteer. I had an absolute love affair with Spain from the time I was 15 and took a trip with my high school to Andalucia. I was obsessed with speaking another language, pesetas (before the Euro), tiles, the people, the food, the beaches! Everything was within reach of my fingertips and I loved it. I studied in a small beach city, Cadiz, the summer after my high school graduation and then again my junior year of college on the Mediterranean side in Valencia (You know the oranges). After college graduation I moved back to Cadiz for a few months looking for work before ending up teaching pre-school at a bilingual school in Madrid.
Being in another country is the ultimate exploration. You are forced to meet new people, possibly in another language, navigate public transportation in a new city, try new foods (some delicious, some not so much), understand new customs & probably live with strangers. There is nothing that I get fired up by more than the crossing cultural barriers. You discover traditions and social norms that you love and agree with and ones that make you want to hop on the next plane home. You will swear it’s the happiest you’ve ever been and at the same time experience anger at the slow bureaucracy. It’s an opportunity for immense growth as an individual. Since living in Spain I have also spent summers in Guadalajara, Mexico and Buenos Aires, Argentina. I have been so fortunate for my host families and am grateful for the unique experience I was given by them. They offered friendship, and of course, amazing food to a girl in her formative teen and young adult years. This dish is an homage to my host mom in Valencia. She made the best lentil stew ever. And thanks to my then roommate who just reminded me of that via Instagram last week.
Vegan lentil stew
3 c. lentils
3 c. water
3 c. vegetable broth (a mix)
2 medium potatoes
2 large carrots
2 celery stalks
1 small onion
4 cloves garlic
2 c. raw spinach
6-7 sage or bay leaves
2 whole chili pepper (optional)
1 tbsp. cumin
1 tbsp. turmeric
1/2 tbsp. red pepper flakes
In a large pot, cover the lentils with water and bring to a boil. Let simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
While the lentils are cooking, chop potatoes, carrots, celery, and onion.
When the water begins to cook off, add the vegetable broth and continue to simmer covered. Add chopped vegetables, garlic, sage and spices. Continue to simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes, until potatoes start to soften and can be cut through easily.
Turn off heat and stir in spinach leaves. Let pot sit covered for 10-15 minutes, allowing lentils to soak the flavors.
Serve or refrigerate. Can be made one day ahead. In fact, I tend to like stews and soups that have sat for a day and had time to absorb the flavors.