Tag lentils

Deborah Madison’s Lentils with Wine-Glazed Vegetables

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.

Vegetarian Pot Pie

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.

Deborah Madison's recipe for stewed lentils

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

Ingredients

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

puff pastry

Directions

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.

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The River Cafe’s Pasta with Kale and Lentils Earns an A-

The River Cafe comes to my rescue! The short days and downright cold nights of the last week reminded me that autumn in New England is really two seasons: it begins as the glorious end of summer, with blue skies, brilliantly colored leaves, and warm temperatures; and ends as the beginning of winter, with dark, gray afternoons. Afternoons that make me long for a warming dinner like this pasta with kale and lentils.

The recipe comes from Ruth Rogers and the late Rose Gray of the River Cafe in London (not to be confused with The River Cafe in Brooklyn, NY, where a handsome assistant professor once wooed me). And to be accurate, the recipe is for “Pappardelle with cavolo nero and lentils.”

Cavolo nero, as my “Italian” mother would call it, is a green with many names. It is also called Tuscan kale and lacinato kale, or dinosaur or black kale. And while I love this kale variety, you could use most any dark leafy green. When I cooked the dish last night, I used baby red Russian kale, because that’s what had arrived in our weekly CSA box, and, natch, I nixed the pancetta.

I also used black beluga lentils rather than the Castelluccio or Puy lentils that the recipe called for. All are members of the prized family of small lentils that tend to hold their shape through cooking.

And …. drum roll … The Professor gave the dish an A-!!!

In terms of taste, The Professor liked the combination of flavors. The garlic and onions did some of the heavy lifting, he thought, but the lentils helped too, adding a “not quite meaty” taste.

He thought it was more satisfying than my kale pasta, where the kale and garlic were doing all of the work. And more interesting: “Sometimes vegetarian pastas are too one-dimensional,” said The Professor. “But each ingredient in there is adding flavor to the dish.”

I’m sure you’ll hear about this dish again as I try to improve its grade from A- to A+. But in the meantime, happy Thanksgiving.

Ingredients:

3 heads cavolo nero, stalks removed, blanched and roughly chopped

1 small onion, peeled and finely sliced

1/2 head celery, stalks and leaves chopped

1 tsp rosemary leaves

1 garlic clove, peeled

1/2 cup Chianti Classico wine

2/3 cup vegetable stock

1 cup cooked lentils (see note below)

1 1/2 pounds fresh papardelle

1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan

Directions:

1. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot and the stock in a small saucepan.

2. Add the onion and celery and cook until they begin to color. Add the garlic and cook for five minutes.

3. Add the wine and cook briefly until it is reduced.

4. Add the lentils, stir, and cook to combine for 3-4 minutes.

5. Add the cavolo nero and enough stock to liquefy the mixture. Season with salt and pepper and heat through.

6. Cook the pappardelle, drain well, and add to the lentil mixture along with the parmesan.

NOTE: Rogers and Gray boil their lentils in water for 35 minutes, with a celery stick for company. I’ve come to like Cook’s Illustrated’s approach, developed to produce lentils that maintain their shape and “firm-tender bite”: The most important step in making a lentil salad is perfecting the cooking of the lentils so they maintain their shape and firm-tender bite. There turns out to be two key steps. The first is to brine the lentils in warm salt water. With brining, the lentil’s skin softens, which leads to fewer blowouts. The second step is to cook the lentils in the oven, which heats them gently and uniformly.

AND ANOTHER NOTE: I’ve just realized that I never wrote a post about Cook’s Illustrated‘s Lentil Salad with Carrots and Cilantro! I must have made it during my blog sabbatical. More on that soon!

Deborah Madison’s Lentil Minestrone

Deborah Madison’s recipe for minestrone soup with lentils was perfect for what turned out to be a cold spring day. Some weeks ago I’d bought some black beluga lentils — “the caviar of beans,” according to the bag — and left them sitting next to my bowls of onions and garlic on my chopping table.  And yesterday, when we were all in the mood for a warming dinner, I flipped through my cookbooks for a lentil soup.

Lentils, because of their small size and thin seed coats, cook faster than most other beans. But because it was a first-time recipe, it took me longer than it should have to get the soup on the table, and by the time I was ready the NBA play-off game that The Professor had planned to watch last night had already begun. Nevertheless … he gave the dish an A- — a rarity for a first attempt!

The Professor liked the flavors. The recipe begins with cooking the onions until they brown and that, combined with a generous amount of garlic, lots of diced carrots and celery and a good handful of bay leaves, parsley branches and sprigs of thyme, gave the broth a richness that is often missing in vegetarian soups.

“It almost tastes like it’s been cooked in a meat stock,” he noted. “I wouldn’t want this soup in the middle of summer,” he added. “But it’s good.”

He also liked the different texture of the pasta, which I’d cooked separately, run under cold water a minute shy of its full cooking time, and and then added to the soup before serving.

“The lentils gave it a nice substance,” he said on the issue of satisfaction, “And it was more interesting than the average lentil soup because of the greens and pasta.”

He paused while I scribbled down his comments, and then added, “Though if there were a few cubes of ham in here, it would be the bomb!”

I ignored the final comment and turned to Ella, who had been trying to get in on the conversation. “The lentils are good with the pasta,” the three-something said seriously. “They would also be good with purple.”

With that said, here’s the recipe:

Lentil Minestrone
Adapted from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra virgin to finish
2 cups onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste (I didn’t have tomato paste on hand so I added a half cup of chopped tomatoes.)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
4 garlic cloves, chopped
3 carrots, diced
1 cup diced celery or celery root
1 cup French green lentils, rinsed ( I used black beluga lentils, which are similar in size)
Aromatics: 2 bay leaves, 8 parsley branches, 6 thyme sprigs
9 cups water or vegetable stock (it will look like too much liquid but add it anyway)
Mushroom soy sauce to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
1 bunch greens—mustard, broccoli rabe, chard, or spinach (I used chard)
2 cups cooked small pasta (I used lumache, which my “Italian mother” calls little snails)
Thin shavings of Parmesan (be generous!)

Instructions
Heat the oil in a wide soup pot with the onion. Saute over high heat, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.

Add the tomato paste, parsley, celery, garlic, vegetables, and 2 teaspoons salt and cook 3 minutes more.

Add the lentils, aromatics, and water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes. Taste for salt and season with pepper. If it needs more depth, add mushroom soy sauce to taste, starting with 1 tablespoon. (The soup may seem bland at this point, but the flavors will come together when the soup is finished.) Remove the aromatics.

Boil the greens in salted water until they’re tender and bright green, then chop them coarsely. (Or, add the chopped greens to the soup while the pasta is cooking.)

Just before serving, add the greens and the pasta to the soup and heat through. Serve with extra virgin olive oil drizzled into each bowl, a generous grind of pepper, and the Parmesan.