Saturday, September 27, 2008

Secret ingredients

I made pasta with lentils for dinner tonight — cheap and nutritious, and easy to make two meals (plain pasta and plain lentils for the children, the combined dish for the parents). My basic recipe is this:

Pick over and rinse ~1 cup of lentils. Put in saucepan with a bay leaf or two and cold water to cover by 1-2 inches. Bring to a boil, then simmer 20-30 minutes, until tender.

  • If you've got a few slices of bacon on hand, chop fairly small and brown slowly in a fry-pan. Once nicely crisp, scoop the bacon out with a slotted spoon, and pour off all but 1-2 TBSP of fat. If you don't have bacon, heat 1-2 TBSP of olive oil in a fry-pan.
  • Add 1 medium onion, 1 medium carrot, and 1 stalk celery, all chopped fairly small. Cook over medium heat until well-browned.
  • Add 1-2 TBSP chopped fresh rosemary and 1-2 cloves garlic, minced, cook for 20-30 seconds, then deglaze the pan with a slosh of white wine.
  • If you have a little (homemade or low-sodium) chicken or beef stock on hand, add now and reduce while waiting for everything else to be done. Otherwise turn off the heat and wait to reheat until pasta and lentils are done.

I usually make this with whole wheat spaghetti, though broader pasta (like farfalle) is more traditional. Cook in well-salted water, and reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water just before draining the pasta.

Finish by adding a cup or two of the cooked lentils (removing the bay leaf) and the pasta to the sauce. Add enough of the reserved pasta-cooking water to make a nice, moist sauce and heat through 1-2 minutes. Serve with parmesan or pecorino if desired.

I didn't have either bacon or stock on hand tonight, but as I was rummaging around the refrigerator looking for a veggie I noticed something I had saved from a night or two ago — the water I had soaked dried shiitake mushrooms in. I chucked it into the sauce at step four, and also added a bit of soy sauce, and ended up with one of the meatiest-tasting vegan meals I've made in awhile.

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