After cooking Deborah Madison’s delicious lentil minestrone soup yet again last week, I decided to go back through her best-selling Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone in search of other recipes. I cracked open the book one morning and 609 pages later, I had several ear-marked pages and my menu for the night: Lentils with Wine-Glazed Vegetables with a Pastry Crust and a side of Catalan-Style Greens.
And yes — you would be right to think that after 609 pages I might have found a recipe that didn’t involve nine of the same ingredients I’d diced, minced and tossed into the lentil minestrone. Spicy stir-fried tofu with coconut rice, anyone? Wild rice with walnut and scallions saute? But you see, I am still trying to earn ten A’s and I knew lentils had typically done well by The Professor. Plus, it gave me a chance to use my ramekins, which would otherwise sit in the basement until blueberry season.
The recipe is straightforward and you can cook the lentils and vegetables ahead of time and let the flavors blend, which only makes the dish tastier. I did make a few adjustments to the recipe: I used black Belugas, which, like the French green lentils the recipe called for, hold their shape better than regular brown lentils. I added a several sprigs of parsley and thyme to the lentils, tying the herbs up with the bay leaf in a bouquet garni. I mixed a tablespoon of vegetable bouillon into the lentil’s cooking water. And, because I am genetically incapable of using just one clove of garlic in any dish that calls for it, I added two.
When I returned to the kitchen at 6:00, I spooned the lentils into the ramekins, topped each with puff pastry, and put them in the oven. While they baked I sauteed the spinach.
“So we’re having an experiment for dinner?” The Professor asked, as he entered the kitchen.
“Yes — it’s lentils and vegetables topped with puff pastry,” I told him.
“You mean like a lentil pot pie?”
I didn’t really like the sound of it though I had to admit it was a more straightforward description and I offered a grudging, “Um … sort of.”
In any case, the dish came within a lentil of earning an A-. “If the beans had been a little bit juicier …” The Professor said, as he delivered the B++. “The lentil stew was tasty and the flavors worked well with the pastry, which helps with its interestingness,” he added. Of course, anyone who’s eaten a pot pie already knows the magic of marrying savory and buttery. Not to mention the cubes of sweetness delivered by the carrots.There’s a reason pot pies are called “comfort food.”
In any case, next time I make a “lentil pot pie” I’ll add more stock, which I think will push both taste and satisfaction grades into the A range. And I’lll try a different side — The Professor, to my surprise, didn’t like the Catalan-Style Greens, aka spinach sauteed with pine nuts and golden raisins. Which left him hungry after eating one ramekin clean but not hungry enough to dig into a second. Instead he ate the remaining lentils with wine-glazed carrots out of the pot.
Based on Deborah Madison’s Green Lentils with Wine-Glazed Vegetables with a Pastry Crust
1 1/2 cups French green lentils, sorted and rinsed (I used black Beluga lentils)
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 celery rib, diced
2 garlic cloves, mashed
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2/3 cup dry red wine
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons butter or EVOO
2 teaspoons parsley, chopped
1. Put the lentils in a saucepan with 3 cups water, vegetable bouillon (if using), 1 teaspoon salt, and the bouquet garni. Bring to a boil and then let simmer until the lentils are tender, about 25 minutes.
2. Heat the oil in a medium skillet. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and saute over medium-high heat, stirring frequently until the vegetables are browned — about 10 minutes.
3. Add the garlic and tomato paste and cook for 1 more minute.
4. Add the wine, bring to a boil and then lower heat and simmer, covered, until the liquid is syrupy and the vegetables tender — about 10 minutes.
5. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
6. Stir in the mustard and add the cooked lentils, along with their broth.
7. If the mixture is too soupy, simmer until the stock is reduced.
8. Stir in the butter or olive oil and season with pepper.
9. Spoon the lentil mixture into four ramekins.
10. Roll out the puff pastry to 1/8 inch thick and cut out four pieces, each just a little bit bigger than the ramekin. Make a few small cuts (for the steam to escape) in each and put them on top of the ramekins.
11. Bake until the pastry is puffed and golden, about 25 minutes.