green lentils, fast and slow

I love lentils. Cooked from dry, they’re a great way to bulk out meat, poultry, and fish (when it comes to animal products, a good rule of thumb is less but better — accompanying them with quality pulses is a wonderful way to accomplish this). For them to really shine, all they need is a little love and time.

 

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green lentils with gremolata

makes as little or as much as you like (the recipe below serves roughly 3-4 as a main, and 6-8 as a side)

Specific ratios and quantities aren’t all that important here — what matters most are the ingredients and techniques used. The key, perhaps, is to not be too hasty, and to give the lentils the care and attention they deserve.

ingredients

for the base

•  1 large onion
• 
1 large carrot 
•  2 stalks celery
• 
1 CUP dried green, brown, or black lentils
• 
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
• 
extra virgin olive oil
• 
sea salt
• 
freshly cracked black pepper

for the gremolata

•  1 bunch fresh parsley 
• 
½ fresh lemon 
• 
1 small clove fresh garlic 
• 
extra virgin olive oil

• 
flaky sea salt
• 
freshly cracked black pepper

 

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the quick version

preparation

1. Peel the onion, then halve it and chop to a very fine dice. Clean and very finely dice the carrot and celery. Go over all the vegetables with the knife again, so as to arrive at pieces of the same size — this will be important for even cooking.

2. Put a wide saucepan on medium-low heat. Add a small splash of olive oil to the pan, then transfer the finely diced vegetables to it. Season with salt to release some water from the veg and help prevent them from getting any colour or frying. Continue cooking, stirring regularly, and let the vegetables soften and melt into each other as they braise in the olive oil, around 15-20 minutes.

3. Place the lentils in a large fine mesh strainer, and rinse them in cold water. Add them to the pan along with the soffritto, then top with 3-4 CUPS of fresh water (depending on package instructions) and one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar — the use of vinegar is more for texture than flavour here; it helps the lentils hold their shape and prevents them from turning to mush. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a strong simmer, then cover with a lid and reduce the heat to low. 

4. Leave the lentils to simmer until tender and all the water has been absorbed, anywhere from 20 to 50 minutes, depending on your lentils.

5. To make the gremolata, finely chop a handful or so of parsley leaves (reserve the stems). Transfer to a small bowl. Grate the zest of half a small lemon into the bowl using a microplane, then finely mince a very small clove of garlic, or half a large one, into the bowl using the microplane again. Add a large pinch of flaky sea salt, a tiny bit of pepper, and enough olive oil to moisten the mixture well. Taste with a finger (or better yet, a small piece of bread) and adjust the balance of ingredients to your taste. You may also add in a small squeeze of fresh lemon juice, if you like.

6. Finely chop the parsley stems and stir them through the lentils.

 

QUICK VERSION: Serve the lentils as soon as they are cooked, topped with gremolata, a drizzle of olive oil, and a bit more salt and pepper to finish.

SLOW VERSION: Once the lentils are tender, cover them with around ½ CUP to 1 CUP of olive oil, reduce the heat to low, and leave them to confit (with the lid still on the pan) for at least 2-3 hours, up to 6 hours. Strain out the oil before serving — you may filter it and reserve for cooking other meals with delicious lentil soffritto oil — and top with the gremolata, plus a tiny bit more salt and pepper to finish.

 

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the slow version

 

Enjoy alone with crusty toasted bread and a sharply-dressed salad, or as a side to steamed grains, roast vegetables and meat.

 

feel free to watch this recipe being made here and here

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