Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Lascivious Lentils

To begin with, I must share a little story, and then on to the post.  A friend of mine noted on last week’s recipe that he was going to cook it as he was trying to impress a vegetarian.  Now, I have acted as wing-man before and I am happy to oblige with any kind of recipe suggestions for just such a purpose.  I know that if I was a vegetarian, even if I didn’t really like kale or tofu I would be very impressed by any man cooking me a vegetarian meal.  There are certain meals, I think that can immediately upon seeing the effort that goes into them that can ‘impress’ someone.  I considered asking him to tell me after the date and dinner if he succeeded in ‘impressing’ her.  And if the answer is yes, I may start rating all of my post on a scale of how likely they are to ‘impress’ someone. (We all know what I mean by ‘impress’ right?) And, Matt, if that worked the recipe below might work as well, I rate it a 7 or 8 on the impressing scale.
Lentils are apparently a super food.  Or at least I think they were at some point.  To be honest I am a bit tired of hearing about super foods.  I just like to eat food, ok? So I will eat what I like and if that happens to be extra good for me, then so be it.  But I find that when we brand something as really great for you or cancer defying or age slaying that people tend to focus too much on consuming only those products. 
Don’t get me wrong, I love the Alice and Wonderland idea of taking a tiny bite of something that says eat me and then shrinking down in size.  However, we all know it doesn’t happen that way.  And since only celebrities seem to be able to drink kale juice three times a day for a year, I choose to just stick with my original plan of eating good food that is also good for me.  Plus if I stuck to only super foods, I would probably subsist on the bad forms of them; like kale chips, sweet potato fries and blueberry muffins. 

However, if you have not tried lentils before; please do, they are lovely.  You may have even already unwittingly eaten lentils in an Indian dish.  There are so many different kinds of lentils that when recipes call for specific ones (orange, split, French and so on) it can be overwhelming, especially since my grocery store only carries one kind.  And those are just labeled “Lentils”.
These regular lentils are a bit softer and will cook faster than French lentils, and thus they can lose their shape a bit as well.  But they are cheap and readily available and I think they work very well here.  Another great thing about this recipe is that it is quick and relatively easy to make.  I like to top the whole thing with some Italian sausage (local or chicken sausage to keep it on the healthy side) but the lentils with vegetables on their own are quite tasty. 

Lentils with fennel
As adapted from Gourmet 2007
1 c lentils
4 c water
1 Tb olive oil
2 large carrots, diced
1 large fennel bulb with fronds, bulb diced and fronds chopped
1 medium onion 
¼ tsp fennel seeds
¼ c fresh chopped parsley
1/8 c red wine vinegar

In a medium saucepan over high heat, combine lentils, water and a large pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for about 15-20 minutes, or until lentils are tender.  Some may split but most should still retain their shape. Reserve about ¼ c of the cooking water and drain lentils.

While the lentils are cooking, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat.  Sauté the carrots, fennel, onion and fennel seeds stirring occasionally.  Cover and continue cooking about 10 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.  Add in cooked lentils, fennel fronds, parsley and red wine, if the mixture looks a bit dry add in the reserved cooking water.  Season with salt and pepper.

If using sausage, prick the sausages with the tip of a knife and cook in a separate pan while the vegetables are cooking.  Once fully cooked, move the sausages to a cutting board and slice. 

Serve the lentils topped with sausages.

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