Sunday, November 02, 2008

Reforming a so-called "lentil hater"...

8 new recipes came blowing through the kitchen this week - our favorites this round were those Crispy Turkey Tostadas, the Cowboy Cookies and that Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Grape Sauce.

We've never really cooked much with lentils - we have worked with them a couple times and the recipes we used were good. However, whenever I mention them, I get an eye roll and that "ugh... do we have too?" look from Jeff. I'm not sure what his aversion is, but for some reason they fall into the category of ingredients he says he doesn't like, but really does. Color me puzzled...

Anyway, this time I didn't bother to tell him what those petite legumes were in this Pancetta, French Lentil and Spinach Risotto that I made for our dinner tonight. Sneaky? Maybe, but then I get the pleasure of letting him know afterwards what he ate... hee hee!

To control the texture of the lentils, they are actually cooked separately and then stirred in at the end. French lentils, green in color, have a sturdier texture and work well in a dish like this or in salads where you need them to hold their shape. They do, however, take a few minutes extra to cook than other varieties.

Cooking chopped pancetta was on tap first to begin this risotto - once the pieces had a chance to crisp up and release their flavorful drippings, a trio of onions was stirred in. Once the chopped onion, leeks and shallots had softened, a mess of minced garlic was added and stirred around until their pungent aroma lifted from the skillet. A heavy handful of short grain Arborio rice is added and once the edges just begin to turn clear, the traditional dose of dry white wine is poured in. No different than most risottos, this one is prepared by stirring in warmed broth, a half cup or so at a time, over the course of several minutes, until the grains have cooked through enough that they are tender, yet still retain a bit of a bite to the center. You may or may not need the entire amount of the broth, but don't feel required to use it all - just keep checking for doneness when the rice is almost ready regardless of how much you have added.

Leaves of baby spinach are stirred in and after just a minute, the warmth from the pan wilts the tender pieces. Once taken off the heat, a healthy dose of sharp Parmigiano-Reggiano is stirred in, adding to the lush nature surrounding the individual grains. That creamy liquid will tighten up fairly quick, so be sure to serve this as soon as the cheese melts in for the best experience. I quite enjoyed the mildly sweet layers the trio of onions gave this dish - while I can't say that the lentils added any explosions of flavor, they rooted themselves in with an earthy background, along side their pleasant firm texture.


  1. Please, tell me there isn't really such a person as a "lentil hater."

  2. I LOVE could anyone hate them?! You should make him some red lentil dal--the lentils get so creamy and delicious, there is no way he couldn't like it!


  3. this sounds so interesting! love it :)

  4. Oh, gosh. I'm not a lentil HATER, but I'm not a lentil LOVER, either. I'm trying though, because I know they're good for me! And pancetta, risotto and lentils? Sounds like a good dish to try!

  5. Susan - well... there was, but not anymore!

    Courtney - it is the texture, not so much the taste I think.

    TTFN - Thanks!

    Abby - Let us know what you think!