Monday, March 12, 2012

Cooking with Lentils

In a recent article marking the end of his stint as the New York Times' interim food critic, Eric Asimov, touching on the changing nature of food trends, remarked that the big trend was once "salmon and lentils." I guess I missed that trend, but reading it made me think that salmon and lentils sounds like a pretty good combination, so I decided to give it a try.

I've never cooked lentils before, which seems kind of strange. I guess I'm not generally drawn to dried beans or legumes, which is a shame. I used to make a fabulous black bean soup with beans that I would soak overnight before cooking with generous portions of onions, olive oil, cumin, oregano and ham hocks. Mmm, gotta make that soon.

I'm getting off track...back to lentils. I found a Food Network recipe from Ina Garten that looked like a good starting point: lentils combined with sautéed aromatics cooked with chicken stock, tomato paste and wine. 

In one of those kitchen "oopsies" that turns out to work just fine, I accidentally added the full can of tomato paste instead of just the two tablespoons the recipe called for. But it turned out great that way. Chris remarked that he really enjoyed the combination of salmon and tomato sauce, as did I.

As a side, it's a pretty versatile combination, I served the leftovers a couple days later with chicken covered in a sauce inspired by Washington Post Food Section Editor Bonnie Benwick's recent Chive Chicken recipe and some roasted Brussels sprouts.

Lentils with Vegetables and Tomato Sauce
Adapted from Salmon with Lentils by Ina Garten for Food Network

8 oz. green lentils
1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups chopped sweet onions
1 1⁄2 cups chopped celery (4 stalks)
1 1⁄2 cups chopped carrots (3 carrots)
1 tbsp. minced fresh garlic
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
2 tsp. seasoned salt
 Fresh-ground black pepper to taste
2 cups chicken broth
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar

1. Put the lentils in a heat-proof bowl and cover with boiling water (about 3 cups). Set aside for 15 minutes, then drain.

2. Heat olive oil in a saute pan, add the onions, celery, carrots, garlic thyme, salt, and pepper and cook over medium heat for 10-12 minutes until the vegetables are softened. Add the drained lentils, chicken broth and tomato paste. Cover and simmer over low heat for 25-30 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Add the vinegar and season, to taste.


  1. This was really, really good. You should make it again -- along with that black bean soup.

  2. I just picked up some French lentils today. They are greener and smaller. Not sure what I'll do with them yet.