Ditch the potatoes this month and try lentils! Side dish or main course...your choice! As part of the 'legume' family including beans, peas, chickpeas, etc., lentils are an excellent source of protein, fiber, carbohydrates and minerals. They also contain no fat.
French green lentils are known for their firmer texture, and don't boil into a mushy consistency like brown lentils with which we are more familiar. Mostly grown in a volcanic ash region of France (around Le Puy), they are also now grown in certain areas of the United States and Canada in similar conditions. French lentils are known for their greenish-gray mottled color and perfect "lens" shape. They also have a more hearty, peppery and mineral-like flavor. The word 'lentil' is French for 'small lens'.
They are more expensive than brown lentils but for a recipe like this, it's well worth it spending a little extra. I found mine at Whole Foods, but Bob's Red Mill brand and Food to Live, are two good brands sold on Amazon.
The inspiration for this recipe came from one of my newest cookbooks, Taste and Technique by Naomi Pomeroy. The caramelization of the lentils is what inspired me to try this because I love caramelized everything!
I garnished mine with some peppery, locally-grown pea sprouts and served them with grilled salmon. They would be delicious with most grilled and slow-roasted meats or poultry. The left-overs (if any) are wonderful the next day as a salad for lunch. Just drizzle with a little balsamic and extra-virgin olive oil. I hope you give French green lentils a try!
These would also make a great side dish for Thanksgiving or Christmas!
Caramelized French Green Lentils
Makes a great side dish but hearty enough to serve alone. Leave out the anchovy paste for a vegetarian entree.
Serves 4 to 6
¾ cup French green lentils
3 cups water or chicken stock
1 cup red wine (I used Columbia Crest Grand Reserve Cabernet which is a $10 bottle and good enough to drink with dinner afterward)
1 bay leaf (optional)
2-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon oil
½ cup finely diced yellow onion
½ cup finely diced celery
½ cup finely diced peeled carrot
½ cup finely diced golden beet
½ teaspoon each Salt & Pepper
½ cup red wine
1 small thyme sprig or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon aged sherry or red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon anchovy paste (buy the tube in the canned fish aisle)
Spread the lentils out on a baking sheet and remove any debris that doesn’t look like a lentil. Rise lentils and put in a medium saucepan along with the water and wine, bay leaf and salt. Bring to a low, simmering boil and cook, uncovered, until just tender. This will take about 25-30 minutes. Drain any excess liquid and set aside, picking out the bay leaf, if using.
To cook the vegetables, heat the oil in a 12 inch sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the vegetables, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are just tender. Taste test occasionally. Set aside.
To make the sauce, first put the sherry, tomato paste, brown sugar, garlic, anchovy paste and
mustard in a small jar with tight-fitting lid.
Put the wine, thyme and garlic in a small sauce pan and bring to a low, simmering boil. Continue to boil until the liquid has reduced to about 1 tablespoon, watching carefully at the end so you don’t boil away too much. Using a fine-mesh strainer, strain the liquid into the jar with the other ingredients. Close and shake together until combined.
To complete the dish, place your largest sauté pan over medium to medium high heat and add 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the lentils and sauce and sauté, stirring frequently, until the lentils begin to brown around the edges and begin to caramelize slightly. Add the vegetables and continue to stir and cook for another few minutes until the vegetables are hot. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if necessary. (This can be done in two batches, if your sauté pan is not large enough to hold everything). Just before serving, drizzle with a little extra-virgin olive oil.