Showing posts with label lentils. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lentils. Show all posts

Friday, February 15, 2013

Mess of Pottage

by Sheila Connolly

FYI, the term refers to the Biblical story of Esau's sale of his birthright for a meal of lentil stew, and connotes shortsightedness and misplaced priorities.

Don't think so, folks, at least for the priorities part.  I was in the midst of a two-day power outage, thanks to the Blizzard of 2013, and I realized I had all the ingredients for a lentil stew, which is actually one of my favorite winter dishes. It was Julia Child who first introduced me to this dish (I'd never seen a lentil before), on The French Chef, although I've simplified it a bit. 

I have to say that after two days in the cold and dark, I have a lot more respect for my forebears, and even in the people who lived in my Victorian house.  I quickly arrived at several observations. One, it is best to plan ahead for your meal, because it's not easy to locate and dice your ingredients in the dark.  Two, candles and oil lamps are not very bright, so it's hard to see what you're doing at any stage, and chopping with a sharp knife in the dark may be dangerous to the health of your fingers.  Three, I realized why so much traditional Irish food consists of stews cooked on a crane over the fire:  peat does not produce a lot of heat, so it takes a while to cook anything!

The fireplace for the last Connolly home, built 1907,
abandoned 1956 and now falling down.  You can
see the crane for cooking.
Once upon a time, lentils and other beans had to be presoaked and boiled for hours.  Luckily those days are gone, and a quick simmer is enough.

I usually make this dish with kielbasa, but regular sausage (which was what I had on hand) works fine—just leave it in good-sized chunks. This time I substituted leeks for onions, because I didn't have many onions and I wasn't sure when the power would be back or the snow would stop.


2 cups lentils, washed
6 cups water

Cook the lentils slowly, at a bare simmer, for half an hour, and drain.

1 lb sausage (ground or link)

Saute the sausage in a pan until it loses its pink color (it will continue cooking later)

2-4 carrots, depending on their size (enough to make 
     1/2 cup finely chopped)
1 onion (or 2 leeks), finely chopped
3 Tblsp butter
3 Tblsp flour
1/2 cup red or white wine
1 1/2 cups meat stock or canned bouillon
1 bay leaf
½ tsp dry thyme or several sprigs fresh thyme

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan and sauté the carrots and onions until tender.  Blend in the flour and cook on low heat, stirring, for a couple of minutes.  Remove from heat and beat in the wine, then the broth, and simmer for 5 minutes.  Add the herbs, then taste for salt and pepper.

In a large pan, combine the lentils, the sauce and the sausage (including the fat in the pan you cooked it in) and heat through.  Cook for a while at low heat to blend all the flavors.  You can eat it right away, or you can reheat it later.  Just don't let it overcook because it dries out.

 And voila!  Cooking by flashlight.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ras el Hanout

This post could have been captioned "Confessions of a Top Chef - aholic."  Yep, my favorite food porn is back in the form of Top Chef Masters.  I watch, dazzled, as the cheftestants prepare gourmet food out of canned goods and penny candy, with nothing but a camp stove and with one hand tied behind their back.  Literally.  (Okay, all of those restrictions are from separate challenges, but whatever ... the point is, the cheftestants are wizards, and I am their humble acolyte.)

Of course, my culinary skills are significantly more limited, my palate less refined.  I consider myself a decent home cook because I can make a passable spinach lasagna and follow a recipe like a champ. 

Still, part of me yearns to dabble in the magical world of the Top Chef kitchen.  Which is why my eyes were inexorably drawn to a jar of ras el hanout on the spice rack at my local Kroger.  I swear for the last two seasons I've seen Top Chef contestants using the Moroccan spice blend in everything from lamb stews to panna cotta.

I couldn't resist.  I bought the jar without the faintest idea of what I would do with it.

Anyway, as soon as I opened the jar and took a whiff, I knew I'd made a good choice.  And I had an inkling of how I would use the spice (with lentils and potatoes).  I served this easy, savory stew with warmed naan.

Lentils with Ras el Hanout

1/2 c. diced onion
1/2 c. diced celery
1 Tbs. olive oil
4 carrots, peeled and cut into half moons
2 pounds new potatoes, diced into bite-sized pieces
1 c. lentils
1 quart vegetable or chicken stock (or water with appropriate number of bullion cubes)
4 tsp. ras el hanout spice blend
1 tsp. salt

Saute celery and onion in the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat for about 10 minutes.  Add all remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium (or a bit below) and simmer covered for 35-40 minutes (until lentils are tender).

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Farmer's Market Stew

This last week, Mr. Wendy and I have been traveling through the Midwest visiting my family.  Because we are generally the pickiest eaters in the room (thanks to our aversion to meat), we often do a fair share of the cooking when we’re houseguests.  This trip was no exception.  We made my grandma some simple bean tacos and a tomato and basil pasta.  We made my mom the polenta pie I posted two weeks ago. But my favorite creation of the trip was the lentil/potato/corn stew we made for my sister.

My wonderful little sister moved from New York to Detroit about a year ago, and this was our first visit to her new home.  We got to enjoy the spectacular view from her loft in the Cass Corridor, and she graciously lent us her car during the days (while she was off training new corps members for Teach for America) so we could explore the city.

One of our stops on our first day was Detroit’s Eastern Market:  a huge farmer’s market, brimming with local produce and interesting made-in-Michigan delicacies.  We broke a $20 and walked away with cherries, blueberries, lentils, tomatoes, corn on the cob, baby potatoes, parsley, thyme, an onion … and change.  Awesome.

We remembered that Sister had garlic, olive oil, and vegetable broth in her pantry; we knew the location of a good bakery a block from her house; and a plan emerged.

By the time she arrived home from work, the loft was rich with the scent of the simmering soup.  The potatoes and lentils formed a hearty base, but the sweet corn—cut straight from the cob, juicy tomatoes, and bright green herbal notes made this a perfect late summer soup.  Throw in a loaf of fresh sour dough bread and some ice-cold beers, and we had a flavorful peasant-like meal around which to swap stories and catch up.

Farmer's Market Stew

1 c lentils
1 ½ c onion
5 c diced potatoes
3 cloves garlic
3 TBSP olive oil
3 cups corn (4 ears)
4 c vegetable broth
6 campari-sized tomatoes (about 2 cups)
1 c. chopped parsley
1-2 Tbs. fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot.  Add the onion and garlic and cook over medium-low until the onion is quite soft.  Add the broth, potatoes, and lentils.  Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for about 30 minutes (until the lentils are tender); if the liquid gets too low, add a little water.  Add the corn, tomatoes, and herbs, and simmer another 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper and keep hot until ready to serve.


Wendy is the author of the Mysteries a la Mode. Visit her on the web or on Facebook.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Perfect Fall Salad!

Each week is turning out to be a mini-gourmet experience for me and my husband. Starting on Monday, I try to come up with some new cheese dish for this blog and/or The Cheese Shop Mysteries. Ah, research. Such an undertaking...not. It's so much fun! And tasty!

So this week, I saw a salad with zucchini and lentils in the local newspaper and I thought, gee, I like those things, but what else could I add to zing it up? Cubes of America Grana.

What is grana? It is a cow's milk and tastes and "acts" like parmesan. Hard, flavorful, grainy with a hint of fruitiness. It is offered by Bel Gioioso (found in local markets). The company started in 1979 when the owner's family moved from Italy to Wisconsin.

Anyway, I made the following salad, and, get this, my taste-tester husband said it's possibly the best salad he's ever had. He eats a lot of different salads, so I took that as a total compliment.

Remember, it's always fun to play with your food.

Take a recipe.
Put a spin on it.
You might find something you
absolutely adore because of one addition.
Be daring and enjoy!


Salad for two


1 small zucchini, diced in 1/2-inch cubes
1 tsp salt (more to taste)
1/4 cup lentils
1 Tbsp. chopped chives (do with scissors)
1 clove shallots, diced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/8 tsp. ground pepper
1 small tomato diced
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup torn arugula leaves
1 Tbsp. pine nuts
1 oz. Bel Gioioso American Grana, cut into 1/2-inch cubes


Dice zucchini, pour into colander, sprinkler with 1/2 tsp. salt and let stand for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, rinse the lentils and boil in 2 cups of water for 20 minutes. Drain under cool water and dump onto a paper towel to drain.

Mix the lentils, chives, shallots, olive oil, pepper, and 1/2 tsp. salt.

Stir in the zucchini, the chopped tomatoes and the vinegar. Fold in the arugula leaves, pine nuts and lentils.


If you prefer more arugula, this may be served on top of a bed of arugula. In that case, you might want to add another tablespoon of olive oil.
And if you'd like to learn more about The Cheese Shop Mysteries, come visit me and my growing cast of characters at Avery Aames website.
Say Cheese!