Monday, February 13, 2017

Now is the time for heartening, hip lentils

Warm your heart, fill your stomach, strengthen your body and brighten your day with all those long forgotten lentils. Protein in a coat of many colors: green, red, brown, black. Unsexy can be glamorous if you do it right. So here are a few worldly ways to jazz up a winter meal without bothering a bank account (they're cheap).

Armenian Red Lentil and Apricot Soup
serves 4-6
You can add lamb to this if you'd like to really rich it up.
3 tbsp olive oil
1 lg onion, diced
1 lg carrot, diced
3 lg garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c (4 oz) dried apricots
1 tsp cumin seed
4 tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or 1 1/4 c boxed chopped tomatoes
2/3 c dried split red lentils
4 cups vegetable broth
1 tbsp dried thyme leaves
1 lemon, juice only
1/4 c chopped flat leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to your taste

Heat the vegetable broth so it's hot when you're ready to use it.
In a medium large heavy gauge soup pot or casserole, heat olive oil. Add onion and carrot and sauté about 8 minutes until they are softened and their sugars are released so they smell sweet. Add garlic, apricots and cumin seeds. Cook a minute then stir in the tomatoes. If using fresh, cook 5-8 minutes until they break down. If using boxed just cook until they are hot.
   Add the red lentils and hot veg broth, stir to blend, bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Cover the pot and cook 20 minutes or until lentils are tender. Add thyme and lemon juice, stir to blend and remove the pot from heat.
   Put half the soup in a blender or food processor or a bowl with an immersion blender and puree this half of it. Return this to the pot, add salt and pepper and blend everything. Dish into bowls and top with the parsley.
Beluga Lentil and Celeriac Soup
This is from Veggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking
Serves 8

1 lb carrots
1 lg celeriac bulb
1 lg onion or 1 medium leek
1 tsp dried thyme leaves
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 cups vegetable broth
1½ cups water
1 tsp salt (more to your taste)
1 tsp freshly ground or cracked black pepper
¼ tsp smoked paprika
¼ tsp ground cardamom
½ cup half and half or light cream or evaporated milk for a thicker soup
1 cup cooked beluga lentils with 1/8 tsp salt
½ cup freshly chopped dill

Peel carrots and celeriac. Save the celeriac leaves for garnish if you’d like. Slice carrots into thin disks and chop celeriac into bite-sized pieces. Put in a large casserole or soup pot. Peel the onion or wash the leek. Coarsely chop whichever you are using and add to the pot. Add the thyme, celery seed, coriander, lemon juice, vegetable broth and water. Put over medium high heat, cover and bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer and cook 25-30 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Puree the contents of the soup pot and return to the pot. Stir in salt, pepper, smoked paprika, cardamom and cream. Add the beluga lentils and taste for seasonings. Reheat uncovered on simmer for 8-10 minutes until it is just hot. Do not boil. Stir in the chopped dill to serve. You can top each bowl with a hot garlic bread crouton and the chopped celeriac leaves.

Tajikistan Green Lentils and Brown Rice with cheese
all the ingredients are native to Tajikistan
serves 4

1/4 c olive oil
1 med onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 med/lg carrot, peeled and diced
4 tomatoes, chopped or 1 1/4 c boxed chopped tomatoes
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp ground allspice
1 c green lentils (use brown if you can't get green)
3/4 c brown rice, rinsed clear
2 bay leaves
4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup crumbly white cheese (goat would be most authentic but use feta or queso fresco)
salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large heavy gauge saucepan or medium soup pan or casserole, heat olive oil over medium. Add onion, celery, carrot and cook about 6-8 minutes until they soften. Add the tomatoes and cook another 3-4 minutes. Add garlic, cumin seed and allspice, stirring to blend. Add the lentils, rice and bay leaves.
Pour in the veg broth and bring to a boil. Turn heat to simmer, cover the pan and cook 30 minutes or until the brown rice is soft, checking from time to time that there is plenty of liquid. Add water if you need to. Check for seasoning.

While the soup cooks, make an herb paste to top it: in a small blender or chopper, combine 
6 tbsp olive oil
1/2 c flat leaf parsley leaves
1/2 c cilantro leaves
1/2 c mint leaves (try something milder than spearmint. if spearmint use a bit less)
1 tbsp pistachio nut meats
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice 
Salt and black pepper to your taste

Pour the soup in bowls, Top with the herb paste and then crumbled white cheese.

Green Lentils with Ethiopian Berbere spice
One of my all time favorites, especially with Berbere spiced chicken and blueberry chutney. What a feast!
serves 6
1 Cup french green lentils
3 C water
2 cups diced onions
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 T fresh ginger, minced
1 cup diced carrot
1 cup diced tomato
2-3 T Berbere Spice Mix...see below**
1 tsp salt
2 T olive oil
Fresh Italian parsley

In a medium heavy bottom pot, or dutch oven, saute diced onion, carrots, garlic and ginger in 2 T olive oil, until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add 2-3 Tablespoons Berbere Spice mix and sauté 2-3 minutes. Add 1 cup french green lentils, 1 cup diced tomatoes, 1 tsp salt and 3 cups water, bring to a boil, cover, turn heat to low and let cook until al dente, about 30 minutes.

**This is my Valentine's Day gift: Berbere spice mix. Always have some ready to bling up anything.

2 tsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. fenugreek seeds
1⁄2 tsp. black peppercorns
1⁄4 tsp. whole allspice
6 white cardamom pods
4 whole cloves
1⁄2 cup dried onion flakes
5 dried chiles de árbol, stemmed, seeded,
and broken into small pieces
3 tbsp. paprika
2 tsp. kosher salt
1⁄2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1⁄2 tsp. ground ginger
1⁄2 tsp. ground cinnamon
In a small skillet, combine coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds, black peppercorns, allspice, cardamom pods, and cloves. Toast spices over medium heat, swirling skillet constantly, until fragrant, about 4 minutes.
Let cool slightly; transfer to a spice grinder along with onion flakes and grind until fine. Add chilies, and grind with the other spices until fine. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in paprika, salt, nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon. Store in an airtight container for up to 6 months. Add fresh garlic when using because I don't put in the garlic powder.

Syrian Harak Osbao: Brown Lentils with Macaroni 
I originally published this as Cooking for Syria but it's delicious enough to reprise.
serves 8 but you can half the recipe

¾ lb brown lentils
4 cups vegetable broth
2 c water
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
 tsp Aleppo pepper
1 tbsp salt
1 c mini macaroni
2 med red onions, peeled and cut into thin rings
3 tbsp olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
½ bunch cilantro leaves, finely chopped
½ bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 sm pomegranate, seeds only
1 lemon, juice freshly squeezed
freshly ground black pepper
IF YOU HAVE IT: 1 tsp dried or 1 tbsp fresh sumac

In a large saucepan or small soup pot, combine water and broth. Bring to a boil, add lentils and cook 20 minutes. Add macaroni and cook until tender. Drain and pour into a large serving bowl. Blend in the pomegranate molasses, Aleppo pepper and salt. Blend in all but 1 tsp of the lemon juice.

While the lentils and macaroni cook, sauté the onion rings in 2 tbsp olive oil until soft and golden. Be careful not to burn. Remove with a slotted spoon and put in the minced garlic cloves. If needed, add the last tbsp. olive oil. When they start to brown—not burn, add the cilantro leaves, stir once and remove from heat. Add the sumac if you have it. Put the onions on top of the lentils and macaroni in the serving bowl, then the fried garlic. Top with chopped parsley and then the pomegranate seeds. Finish with the last tsp. of fresh lemon juice.

Hazelnuts, Celeriac and Puy Lentils by Ottolenghi

Serves 4
2 oz whole hazelnuts (skin on)
3/4 c Puy lentils
3 c veg broth or water
2 bay leaves
4 thyme sprigs
1 small celeriac, peeled and cut into 1/4" small disks
4 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp hazelnut oil
3 tbsp good-quality red wine vinegar
4 tbsp chopped mint
salt and black pepper
Preheat oven to 275º. Scatter the hazelnuts on a small baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes. Let them cool, then chop roughly.
In a small/medium saucepan combine the lentils, broth or water, bay leaves and thyme. Bring to a boil, simmer 15–20 minutes, or until lentils al dente. Drain in a sieve.
Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, cook the celeriac in plenty of boiling salted water for 8–12 minutes, or until just tender. Drain.
In a large bowl mix the hot lentils with the olive oil, 2 tbsp of hazelnut oil, vinegar, some black pepper and plenty of salt. Add cooked celeriac and blend well. Taste and adjust seasoning. Stir in half the mint and half the hazelnuts. Pile onto a serving dish or bowl and drizzle the remaining hazelnut oil on top. Garnish with the rest of the mint and hazelnuts.


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