Apr 18, 2009

lentils

public service announcement: i have discovered the best thing on the planet. it is brown lentils with carrots and onions, charred kale, and rice, with feta and garlic yogurt. warm, spicy, slightly minty, round from the yogurt, earthy from the lentils, with a slight bitterness from the kale--it is a perfect dinner.

lentils
1/4 large white sweet onion
olive oil
dash each mint, cumin, cilantro, cayenne, fennel seed, mustard seed, dill, cinnamon
1 cup brown lentils
2 carrots
3 cloves garlic
black pepper
pomegranate molasses (dark honeys like buckwheat or tarweed are decent substitutes)
salt

reduce the onion to a 1/2 inch dice. after doing so, in a heavy casserole on high heat, warm about 1 tablespoon of olive oil. add the spices. when the fennel and mustard begin to pop, add the onion and stir. a powerful and promising aroma will permeate your kitchen. reduce the heat to medium and let the onions do their thing. meanwhile, rinse your lentils and drain. bring the heat back up to high and add the drained lentils. stir again. the aroma will now be significantly less promising, and reminiscent of wet earth and pouring rain. add enough water to cover the lentils. when the mix comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium again and cover, leaving a slight gap for steam to escape. do not add salt or pepper yet.

peel and cut carrots into 1/4 inch half-rounds or whatever shape strikes your fancy; after this, peel and finely mince the garlic. after you have completed these onerous tasks, inspect the casserole again and top up with water to just cover the lentils. at this point, reduce the heat to medium-low and add all the garlic, then re-cover, again leaving the merest hint of a gap. when the lentils are softened but not yet tender, add the carrots. continue to cook until carrots are soft but still firm to the bite and lentils are soft but not mushy. (total cooking time can be anything from 25 to 60 minutes. dried pulses vary widely in cooking time, so keep on checking; it's an excuse to taste.) add about a teaspoon's worth of pomegranate molasses, stir to mix, then season with salt and fresh pepper, remembering that feta is a salty cheese.
i had this with steamed rice (jasmine, for preference) and chopped kale charred in a hot skillet with olive and walnut oil--both excellent in their own right. but what made the lentils into the stuff of myth was first the addition of the garlic and yogurt sauce from the zucchini pancakes, and then the sprinkling of feta over the top of everything.

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