old world lentils w/ root veggies in the works (Taken with instagram)
For this dish, I adapted a lentil/potato-based recipe from Smitten Kitchen (who adapted hers from the New York Times). The inspiration, however, comes from Elena, my homestay mother when I studied in Spain a few years ago. Elena had, erm, an interesting concept of “dinner.” Because I had an internship at an art gallery that required me to work until 9:30 each night, Elena would have eaten and gone to bed before I arrived home. So each night, Elena would leave my meal set out on the kitchen table with a little plastic cover over it, and each night, lifting the cover was always an adventure in its own right. A few times, I lifted the cover to find nothing but two hot dogs and a five-ish slices of bacon. No buns. No vegetables. Just meat. Another night I came home to spaghetti doused in the previous Sunday’s barbecue sauce. But every so often, I would get lucky and find a massive clay dish full of enough lentils to feed the entire group of Middlebury study-abroaders.
Lentejas, she called them. And she made them one of two ways: with red and green peppers and onions stirred in, or with chunks of onion, carrot, potato and beef. Both were heavily seasoned with olive oil, salt and garlic (as was pretty much every dish I consumed during my semester in Spain). I remember being trepidacious at first—this is a very unappealing dish, aesthetically speaking. If it looks like someone has already consumed and regurgitated it, you’ve done it right. Though I came to love this ugly duckling of a dish, I never did get up enough nerve to ask Elena for her recipe. I have long sought to make the dish myself on American soil and both ingredients and process seemed as though they’d be simple enough. After a little research and a trip to Whole Foods, here is what I came up with:
I decided to make the carrot/potato version, since it was my favorite. Hence, you will need:
-2 russet potatoes, cubed into 1/4 inch pieces
-3 whole carrots, chopped
-1 3/4 cup dried green lentils
-1 small yellow onion, chopped
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-2 Tbsp olive oil
-4-5 cups beef stock (or veggie, if that’s your jam)
Once you’ve cut up all of your vegetables, heat the oil in a large sauce pan. Add onion and garlic and cook 5ish minutes until translucent. Add salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder (whatever/however much you like). Dump in four cups of beef stock and increase heat to medium. Add potatoes, carrots and lentils (I also had some leftover frozen spinach that I dumped in at this stage of the game. Nom). Add more salt & pepper and bring to a boil. Cook for a minute or two then reduce heat to medium, partially cover, and cook for 30 minutes. Now I would check to see how dry they are looking, and add extra broth if needed. You want this to be a mush, though, not a stew, so only add enough to get a really nice refried-bean texture. Stir and reduce heat and let them simmer for another 10 minutes or so. After this point, it’s up to you. I like my lentils super mushy, so I let ‘em congeal at a low temperature for a while. If you prefer that your lentils be more al dente, remove from heat and serve.
Some other things I’d consider:
-adding in some chunks of cooked stew beef or some leftover roast beef that you’ve shredded with a fork (omg omg, If only I could afford meat!)
-using pearl onions instead (or in addition to??) the regular. The lentils would look so pretty studded with these miniature guys.