Tag Archives: Lentils

On Making Mistakes

And so continues our ongoing series where you learn from my mistakes.

I love butternut squash.

So much so that, occasionally, and against my better judgement, I buy it out of season. And, by “out of season,” I mean in the height of summer, when the last thing that I want to do is turn on my oven.

Before you catch me on a technicality—yes, I know that butternut squash is available all year—it’s just that, at least in my mind, it’s much better in the fall. Owing mostly to the oppressive heat and humidity of a New York summer, and the oven, and the laziness. (See, also: soup and tarts.)

So, what happened was this: a craving hit, and then quickly passed. Just not quite quickly enough, and so, the aforementioned butternut squash that I just had to have sat on my counter.

And, then it sat some more.

When I finally got around to cooking it—it was one of those used it or throw it out scenarios, and, well, you know my feelings on wasting perfectly good ingredients. Naturally, it was in the midst of the worst heat wave yet this summer.

Imagine the scene, if you will—me sticking my head in the freezer to get a break from the preheating oven. It was all very Sylvia Plath, but with the promise of salad at the end, rather than eternal rest.

There’s an important lesson learned here—buy and cook seasonally, if you can. Or, failing that, when a craving hits go with it completely, cooking it immediately, lest you find yourself in a sweltering kitchen in the midst of the dog days of summer.

The good news here is that the lack of seasonality does not deter from the flavor one bit. And, if you’re looking for some picnic fare, this one’s mayonnaise free and easy to prepare in advance, making it a wonderful candidate.

Butternut Squash and Lentil Salad
Inspired by Smitten Kitchen

6 cups butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup black beluga lentils
1 small red onion
2 TBS red wine vinegar
2 TBS olive oil
2 TBS paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp Kosher salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Dice one small red onion and set aside in a small bowl. Add a pinch of salt and 2 TBS red wine vinegar. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Toss the butternut squash with 2 tablespoons oil, paprika, cayenne pepper, and salt. Roast in a single layer on either a baking sheet of pyrex baking dish, until the pieces are tender, about 20 minutes. Flip the butternut squash pieces over and roast another ten minutes, until the outside is golden brown.

While the butternut squash is roasting, soak lentils for 10 minutes in a small bowl, then drain. Cook lentils in boiling salted water until tender but firm, about 30 minutes. Rinse with cold water, then drain and cool.

In a large bowl, combine the lentils, butternut squash and the red onions, stirring well. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4 to 6

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File It Away

And so we descend into the seasonwhereitstoocoldtoleavethehouse. (I’m hoping if I say it quickly, maybe it won’t last as long.)

Hope springs eternal, as they say.

But, while I wait for Spring, it’s time for some heartier fare.

Soup is, of course, a great option. But, on those really cold days in store, I want something a little more substantial, and I think these lentils fit the bill perfectly.

They’re quick to make, taking about 45 minutes, but taste like they’ve been stewed for hours, thanks to the addition of bacon which imparts a smoky flavor and the tomato paste that lends an added depth. But, you could easily make them vegetarian, too, and wouldn’t lose much of the complexity. And, they’re economical, so if, after many days of being housebound from the cold, you crack and order in, you don’t even need to feel guilt.

As an added bonus, the lentils freeze well, so you can make a big batch and eat them throughout the winter. I’ll be doing just that.

Stewed Lentils
Adapted from Ina Garten

The biggest change that I made to this recipe was the addition of bacon, which takes the lentils from a simple side to a main dish. I also use black beluga lentils. They’re a little smaller than the French lentils Garten calls for and the texture stays intact despite the stewing. French lentils would work perfectly here as well. Avoid plain lentils as they tend to get mealy.

4 strips bacon, diced
2 TBS olive oil
1/2 cups black beluga lentils
2 cups chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 stalks celery, diced
3 carrots, chopped
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 tsp thyme
2 TBS tomato paste
3 TBS red wine vinegar

Boil lentils 15 minutes, drain and set aside.

In a large frying pan, heat up the bacon, rendering out the fat. Strain the bacon from the fat and set it aside.

Add olive oil to the bacon fat and allow it to heat up. Saute the onions until they are translucent, then add in the garlic and thyme. Cook for 2 minutes. Then, add celery, onions, and tomato paste and cook for 3 minutes.

Add the lentils and chicken stock. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until the stock has fully absorbed. Once the stock has fully absorbed, add the vinegar and simmer for 5 minutes.

Sprinkle with bacon before serving. Serve with rice.

Serves 4

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Making Good

I promised you more Indian recipes quite some time ago. At last, I’m making good. Better late than never, I’d say. Particularly in this case.

This recipe for Moong Dal comes courtesy of my friend Rajni. It may be one of my favorite of all of her dishes. And, that’s saying something. Seriously. By now you’ve, hopefully, already tried her raita so you know how good it is.

Stay tuned and I’ll get to the rest of her recipes in due time. I promise, they’re worth the wait.

Rajni’s Moong Dal

If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can still make this recipe. Simply rinse the lentils and boil according to the instructions on the package (or, failing that, boil for about 20 minutes, until they’re soft).

1 cup whole green lentils
2 cups water
1 seranno chili, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 TBS butter
1 tsp ginger
2 tomatoes, chopped with seeds
3 TBS garam masala
1 TBS light brown sugar
1 TBS lemon juice
1 TBS salt
pepper to taste

Using a pressure cooker, cook the lentils, per manufacturer’s instructions. Set the cooked lentils aside.

In a large fying pan, saute onions, ginger, chili, and 1 TBS salt until the onions are translucent.

Add the tomatoes, their seeds and juice and the garam masala. Stir to combine and saute 2 minutes.

Add the lentils and stir. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Add 2 cups of water, stir in the brown sugar, and bring the mixture to a boil. Then, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Once the sauce has thickened, finish with the lemon juice.

Serves 4

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