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Chef Sarah Stegner, chef and owner of Prairie Grass Café in Northbrook joins WGN Weekend Morning News to share her recipe for Vegetarian Lentil Stew with mushrooms and fresh greens.

Prairie Grass Café is located at 601 Skokie Boulevard in Northbrook.

Vegetarian Lentil Stew with mushrooms and fresh greens


  • 2 cups lentils (soaked in water for 2 hours ahead of time)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup peeled diced onions
  • Sea salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup diced shallots
  • 5 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp. chili pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup leeks
  • 1/2 cup diced carrots
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup diced fennel
  • 1/2 cup diced squash
  • 2 large tomatoes (Skin and seed the tomatoes and add them after all the other vegetables are in the pot. Let the tomatoes sauté and release the liquid before adding the lentils)
  • 4 to 5 bay leaves
  • 3 to 4 sprigs of thyme
  • Water or vegetable broth


In a large pot over medium high heat add the olive oil, diced onions, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently until the onions begin to caramelize. Add the shallots, garlic and chili pepper flakes. Stir until they are tender. Add the leeks, carrots, celery, fennel and a pinch more sea salt. Sauté for 10 minutes stirring frequently. Add the squash, bay and thyme. (You can make a bouquet garni or just put them in loose and pick them out when the lentils are done cooking which is what I do.)

Cook for 2-5 minutes stirring frequently. Drain the lentils and add to the vegetables. Add water or veg stock enough to cover them with 1/2 inch of liquid. Allow the lentils to come to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Depending on how long you have soaked the lentils and the variety used it may take from 30 minutes to an hour to cook until the lentils are soft. You may need to add additional water or stock to keep the lentils covered and season to taste.

If you are feeling ambitious, take the vegetable trimmings and enhance them with some extra veggies to make a veg stock at the same time. Then when you are ready to serve, you will have extra liquid to add, as it intensifies the flavor of the dish.

My veggie stock usually contains fennel seeds, bay, thyme, garlic onions, shallots, mushroom stems, carrots, celery, squash, (items like parsnip, cabbage, turnips can be very strong and tend to overpower and dominate the flavor of the stock, so I am careful with those veggies.)

Final Steps & Assembly:

Sauté Portobello mushrooms in olive oil, salt & pepper. Mix Fresh Greens with apple cider vinaigrette.

To make the vinaigrette, start with a splash of apple cider vinegar, add a squeeze of lemon juice, some salt and pepper, a small spoonful of Dijon mustard, some local honey and mix it all together with olive oil.

Put your lentil stew in a bowl with a small serving of mushrooms and the greens over the top.