Archive for the ‘Lentils / Chickpeas / Legumes’ Category

Lentils

4 March 2011

In our house lentils are known as “cowboy food.” I still haven’t understood exactly why, but Thomas peddles his lentils-with-a-fried-egg dinner as such. And it works very well. The children might even call it their favorite dinner – it’s all about marketing, really.

Or it’s inherited, because we all love lentils, and I make them often as a side, especially in winter. Lentils were great with slow-roasted pork shoulder and sautéed baby bok choy, but they are also delicious with grilled salmon and braised fennel. Or with a fried egg. Seriously. Surely you can already hear the crackling embers of the campfire, the gurgle of whiskey poured into tin cups, horses neighing nearby…

I like this technique for cooking lentils, which breaks up the process into two basic steps: First cook the lentils in lots of water with aromatics and vegetables cut into large chunks until barely al dente. Remove from heat and discard the pieces of vegetables and herbs. Then brown more of the same vegetables, finely diced, return the lentils to the pan with the vegetable mirepoix (the finely diced vegetables browned in olive oil), and reheat until the lentils are cooked to desired consistency.

***

This recipe uses red onions and fennel, but yellow onions work just as well, and carrots and/or celery replace the fennel perfectly. I change it according to my mood, the rest of the meal, or what happens to be in the house.

2 cups green lentils (preferably Castelluccio or du Puy)

2 medium red onions

2 bulbs fennel

A good handful of sprigs of flat-leaved parsley

2 bay leaves

[Pancetta, optional]

Olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Very good olive oil

Balsamic and red wine vinegar

***

Pick through the lentils to look for small stone intruders that must be discarded. To wash lentils, cover with cold water and drain in a fine mesh sieve.

Peel and cut into large chunks half an onion and half a fennel, reserving the rest for later.

Place lentils into a large saucepan with 4 cups (double the volume) water. Add the vegetable chunks, a few sprigs of parsley, and the bay leaves, bring to a boil and let simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat when the lentils are just starting to soften but still retain a nice bite (they will cook a bit more later). Discard the sprigs of parsley, bay leaves, and vegetable chunks, pour the lentils into a large bowl, and set aside. Quickly rinse and dry the saucepan for reuse.

Finely dice the rest of the vegetables, and wash and finely chop the rest of the parsley.

[If using, cook the pancetta until crispy, remove from pan, and cut into small strips]

Heat enough olive oil to cover the base of the saucepan. Add the onion and cook until nicely brown, stirring occasionally. Add the fennel and sweat for a few minutes until it becomes translucent. Add the lentils with some of the excess liquid. **The lentils should remain moist and shiny but not swimming in liquid. If necessary add of dash of plain water to prevent the lentils from drying out.** Season generously with salt and pepper and heat gently. The lentils will continue to cook, so test and remove from the stove when they have reached the desired consistency (I personally like lentils to retain some bite).

Check the salt and pepper seasoning, adjust, add 2 tablespoons of the best olive oil and 1 tablespoon each of balsamic and red wine vinegars [and the pancetta], stir in the chopped parsley, and serve warm.

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Happy New Year! (Lentil soup with cumin)

4 January 2011

It’s not that I haven’t been cooking – or eating – since early December, but somehow all the feasting and visits from friends and family got in the way of writing. It was a productive period nonetheless, culinarily speaking, in which I unexpectedly improved a foie gras recipe and expanded my cookie baking horizon, all of which should make for a profuse Christmas season next year, if I am better organized.

But it’s 2011, and since I just learned that lentils are a New Year’s tradition in some regions of France and Italy – the way black-eyed peas and collard greens are here in the South – and because I will grab any excuse to make this soup, here it is at last, the deliciously simple lentil soup with cumin from Moro: The Cookbook, somewhat rewritten but barely altered.

***

From Moro: The Cookbook by Sam and Sam Clark

2 cups (400g) lentils (green, red, or yellow)

3 medium onions

6 garlic cloves

Olive oil

3 heap tsps cumin seeds

Sea salt

Freshly ground back pepper

Lemon, plain yogurt, and Harissa to serve (optional)

*

To wash the lentils, cover with cold water and drain in a fine mesh sieve.

Finely slice onions and garlic.

Heat enough olive oil to cover the base of a large heavy-bottom saucepan, add the onions and brown over medium heat, stirring occasionally (about 10 minutes). Meanwhile roughly grind the cumin seeds in a mortar. Once the onions are nicely golden, add the garlic and cumin and stir. Then add the lentils and stir to mix with the onion/cumin mix.

Cover the lentils with 4 times their volume of cold water (8 cups or 2 l), place lid on the pan, and let simmer gently until lentils are soft, about 40 minutes, checking occasionally to add water if necessary. (There should be some excess water in the pot otherwise it will be a purée rather than a soup, but not too much because the soup should be nice and thick.)

Season with salt and pepper and blend until smooth.

Squeeze some lemon and add a spoonful of good plain tart yogurt or some Harissa if desired.

*

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Baby food | le

Lentils

Baby food* | Lentils

16 November 2010

The other day I decided to make one of my favorite recipes from Moro cookbook: lentil soup with cumin. It’s a wonderful recipe that requires little else besides lentils and cumin – with cumin, of course, being the key. We had friends over for dinner and I was quite excited about making this soup. It’s simple and delicious, and perfect just as it is.

But I must have underestimated how often I have made this recipe recently, because the guests had already arrived and I was about to start the soup when I realized that I had run out of cumin. Thomas went out to get the indispensable spice from a store close by and returned with deceptively labeled coarsely ground black pepper… So, I had to improvise – I used curry powder and fresh sage leaves instead.

Typically the story should end with a revelation, a new wonderful recipe discovered by necessity. But no, unfortunately, Moro’s lentil soup with cumin has no cause to envy my lentil soup with sage and curry. Sage did seem like a good idea, however, and since I cannot resist tweaking recipes, even those that need no tweaking, this week I made lentils with sage and cumin for Louise.

***

1 medium onion

Olive oil

1 garlic clove

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

2 sage leaves

1 cup (200g) red lentils

***

Slice onion finely. Heat a good drizzle olive oil in a small heavy bottomed saucepan, add onion and let sweat, stirring occasionally, over medium heat.

Thinly slice garlic clove, grind cumin seeds in a mortar, and wash lentils under running water through fine mesh sieve.

Once the onion starts to brown, add garlic, cumin, and sage leaves. Stir well and let cook for about a minute. Add lentils, stir well again. Add 3 cups (750 ml) water. Cover and cook at a lively simmer for about 30-40 minutes, until the lentils are soft.

Blend the lentils, squeeze a few drops of lemon juice before serving.

*This doesn’t have to be just for babies. Add Maldon sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, a drop of excellent olive oil, and a hint of harissa and it makes a very decent soup.


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