Lentils of Infinite Virtue
There are a lot of people to whom I owe debts of gratitude. Stanford Steph is one of them. Not only did she inspire the idea behind the Fussy Little Tours, but she also served as a stand-in photographer for this week’s Eat This! on AOA.
Officially it’s time for me to bite the bullet and buy an actual camera. The good news is, and you probably already know this, digital cameras are a lot better today than they were 10 years ago. Damn, I’m old. But I’ve been holding a grudge against the technology because of the crap camera I paid hundreds of dollars for a decade ago. Today I can buy ten times the camera for half the price, and that’s what I’m going to do.
But let’s get back to Steph.
Recently she had a problem of her own. Steph was looking for a lentil recipe. It was then that I realized I’ve never written down the details of the lentil dish that I make at least once every winter. Usually I eat the whole thing myself over the course of the season. For starters, it’s super healthy. It freezes and reheats beautifully, and since it’s a stew it is even better after the flavors have had time to fully meld.
Also the rest of the family kind of hates it. But don’t be dissuaded by them. I’m not.
The kids enjoy a wide variety of rice and bean dishes from around the world. They will go for Indian spiced red lentils that break down almost completely and feels more like a puree than a lentil dish. But I think it’s the thicker texture of this stew in addition to its chunks of vegetables that derails the lentil stew train.
Mrs. Fussy has a hard time getting past this dish’s passing resemblance to gruel. And regardless the state of our personal finances at the times when this dish is made for the family, just sitting down to a hot and steaming bowl of this porridge makes Mrs. Fussy feel destitute.
But like I said, I love it. Mostly because it’s easy. But also because it goes great with Tabasco and parmesan cheese. In fact this preparation is one of the few times I will use parmesan in the evil green canister (that we keep around the house so kids can sprinkle it on pizza or occasionally pasta in those rare occasions when we are low on the good stuff).
I make a ton of this and break down leftovers into smaller meal sized containers. But you could easily halve this recipe.
Before doing anything, pick over two cups of plain everyday brown lentils. There are sometimes rocks or other things mixed in with the legumes that you might not want to eat. So examine them closely. Take your time. This is delicious, but it’s not worth a cracked tooth.
With the picked over lentils in a colander waiting to be called into action, heat a large pot over a medium-high heat and coat the bottom with XV olive oil. Then add two finely chopped onions, and cook until soft with a teaspoon of salt. Then add four (or so) peeled and chopped carrots to the pot with another teaspoon of salt. When the carrots have softened a bit, toss in two finely chopped garlic cloves with a half teaspoon of salt and saute until it is aromatic but before it changes color.
While the garlic is heating, very quickly rinse the lentils and throw them into the pot. Stir and incorporate the lentils well into the vegetable mixture. Then it’s time for two cups of beef broth (I use store bought Pacific Organic in this preparation) and six cups of water. Into the water goes ½ teaspoon of dried Mexican oregano, and a heaping half cup of long grain brown rice.
The whole shebang gets brought to a boil and then reduced to a simmer until the rice is soft (or longer). It takes the better part of an hour.
It’s really simple, quite healthy, crazy cheap, deeply warming, and totally tasty. The more you make it, the more you’ll tinker with the proportions and flavorings to make it your own. For example if you prefer it soupier you can add more liquid, or some might like it better with a higher proportion of rice.
Anyway, I’m curious about whether those of you who end up making this will fall into my camp or on Mrs. Fussy’s side of the fence. Please keep me posted.