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Pasta with Lentils and Chard

12 ounces Swiss chard
1 cup lentils -- rinsed and drained
1 medium onion -- finely chopped
2 cloves garlic -- minced or pressed
1 teaspoon cumin seeds -- coarsely crushed
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
2 cups water
12 ounces dry linguine
salt
6 ounces Neufchatel cheese -- room temperature
grated parmesan cheese -- optional


Rinse and drain chard well. Trim off coarse stem ends; then cut stems crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide strips and set aside. Cover chard leaves and refrigerate. In a 3-quart or larger slow cooker, combine chard stems, lentils, onion, garlic, cumin seeds, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. Pour in water. Cover and cook at low setting until lentils are tender when mashed with a fork (6 to 7 hours).

Cut chard leaves crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide strips; stir into cooker. Increase heat setting to high; cover and cook until chard is wilted and bright green (about 15 minutes more). Meanwhile, in a 5- to 6-quart pan, cook linguine in 3 quarts boiling water just until tender to bite (10 to 12 minutes); or cook according to package directions. Drain well; pour into a warm wide 4-quart bowl. Season lentil sauce to taste with salt. Add lentil sauce and Neufchatel cheese to linguine; mix lightly to coat well. Offer Parmesan cheese to add taste, if desired. Makes 6 servings.

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