Monday, May 3, 2010

Recipe #20/20: Final Lentil Adventure!

YEAH! After nearly three months since recipe nineteen, I have finally finished. I knew for a while that for the last recipe I wanted to do a tour de lentils simply preparing as many different types of lentils as I could with small accompaniments. So without further ado, the final lentil meal:

Lentils Accompaniment
Green Butter-sautéed shiitake mushrooms
Red Roasted spring onion
French Green Caramelized onions
Spanish Padrina Orange, butternut squash puree
Harvest Gold Watermelon radish
Petite Gold Sunchoke puree with chard chips
Ivory Roasted beets
Black Beluga Daikon radish

...surrounding a fried duck egg.

Thanks to everyone who came and to everyone who has read this and encouraged me throughout this journey. As for what to do now, I'm really not sure. I'll definitely continue eating lentils, albeit in most likely in simple preparations. With grad school approaching in the fall though, we'll see how much time I might have to do crazy recipes and write about them. But I'll try....

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Recipe #19/20: Lentil Pita Bread!

Well, we're nearing the end of this journey. So many crazy recipes over the last few months have been created from our dear friend: the lentil. I've learned so much about what this ingredient can do and hope that I've been able to pass a little of that along.

The last couple of weeks I've been contemplating what to do for the big one-nine. I wanted some sort of flatbread, but I wasn't sure what to do in particular. I settled on the pita, which has become quite popular in American culture over the last ten years. The recipe I used for the basis of this uses whole wheat flour. To lentilize it, I replaced a third of the flour with lentil flour and changed the whole wheat to semolina pasta flour to ensure proper gluten concentration.

The recipe worked quite well. Before this project, I hadn't worked with dough very much, but I'm starting to get the hang of it. The texture is spot-on for pita bread with a robust additional lentil flavor (not to mention nutrition). The one element that will probably take a little work is in rolling out the dough so that it forms the traditional uniform pocket when baked. Mine weren't great for filling as a sandwich, but were more than adequate for snacking on or dipping in hummus. Baking is a talent that requires a great deal of practice.

I hope you enjoy this dish and I shall start planning an epic tour de lentil for the final dish.

Lentil Pita Bread
Makes 8 pitas

1.5 cups dried lentils (I used yellow and red, but any will do)
2.25 cups semolina flour (whole wheat will do in a pinch)
1.5 tsp salt
1.5 Tbsp brown sugar
4 tsp fast-acting yeast
2 Tbsp melted butter
1 1/2 cups water
AP flour for rolling surface

1. Grind lentils for 60 seconds per batch in a spice grinder. Sift out mealy germ. Final volume should be about one cup.
2. Sift together lentil flour, semolina flour, salt and brown sugar.
3. Bloom yeast by adding to slightly warm water in a large bowl or stand mixer.
4. Add melted butter (as long as it isn't too hot!) to yeast and water.
5. Add dry goods to the bowl and mix with a whisk.
6. Either knead by hand until exhausted or with the hook attachment on the stand mixer for 10 minutes.
7. Place in a slightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise for one hour.
8. Preheat oven to 450F. Punch down dough and divide into eight even pieces. Roll each into discs approximately 8" across and 1/8" thick.
9. Place discs on a greased baking sheet and bake until puffed up and slightly brown (approx. 3 min.)
10. Leave on baking sheet for approx. 60 sec. after removing from over, then transfer to a cooling rack. Repeat with remaining discs.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Recipe #18/20: Lentil Pasta!

Last few recipes coming down the pipe! I recently acquired a few attachments for my stand mixer, so I thought I'd try this one out. To be straight forward, it didn't turn out as well as I would have hoped, but I feel like most of that is my utter lack of experience in pasta making. From what I know, pasta (much like many of its flour/water/egg compatriots) requires a great deal of practice and experience to make skillfully. That being said, here's what I learned about making pasta:

Pasta requires a large amount of gluten in order to hold together. This protein (mostly brought up in casual conversation as being purged from one's diet) is actually a composite protein of gliadin and glutenin, which essentially forms the backbone of most baked goods. While not good for people with celiac disease, for the rest of us it what gives so much taste and texture to most of the things at your local baker. The forming of gluten takes place in the kneading process, which is essential for the pasta to remain together. While there are gluten-free pastas now available, I'm not sure exactly how they are made (most likely utilizing high pressure machines and/or chemical agents). Since lentils do not contain gluten, I knew that I would have to use a partly lentil, partly wheat flour dough.

The wheat flour I chose is called semolina flour which is essentially made for pasta making. It is made from a variety of wheat called durum wheat which, you guessed it, contains a high percentage of gluten. I chose to do half and half for the flour (some recipes do call for half semolina, half all-purpose). I'm not sure what the ideal ratio is but as I become more practiced at pasta making, I will probably try different combinations.

The dough was very difficult, and extremely messy, to get through the pasta maker. I have a variety of different attachments, but what seemed to work best was a wide-set spaghetti die. In retrospect, the easiest solution would probably be lasagna noodles, which I could then go back and use in the lentil lasagna recipe. Also, I tried three different varieties of lentil flours, but all seemed to be equally tricky.

Finally, the pasta sauce is pretty basic, but surprisingly delicious for essentially being made up on the fly. The caramelized onions add a nice sweetness, which is well balanced by the savory herbs and pepper flake spice. It can be either blended or left as is, depending on your preferences.

I hope you enjoy this recipes, those who are so bold as to venture into the world of pasta making. If anyone has successfully made pasta before, I would more than welcome any helpful hints for my next endeavor. Two more recipes left: they will be fun!

Lentil Pasta with Tomato Sauce
Serves four people

3/4 cup semolina flour
1 cup lentils (any variety)
1/2 tsp salt
4 eggs
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil

1 red onion, sliced
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
1/4 cup fat (olive oil, etc. [I used goose fat since I have some])
8 garlic cloves, sliced
2 6 oz. cans tomato paste
1 14.5 oz. can fire-roasted tomatoes
12 oz. beef broth
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried marjoram
1/2 tsp red chili flakes

1. Using a spice grinder, grind the lentils into flour and sift into a bowl. (Should yield approximately 3/4 cup.)
2. Mix dry ingredients (including lentil flour) in the bowl of a stand mixer with a fork or whisk.
3. Add eggs, water and oil and combine using paddle attachment.
4. Switch to bread hook and knead for 15 minutes, stopping occasionally to push mixture down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
5. Run pasta through pasta machine (manual or stand mixer attachment) according to manufacturer's instructions.
6. Boil water, cook pasta and drain.

1. Heat fat in a medium-sized pot on medium heat and add red onions.
2. Drop heat to medium-low and cook onions until caramelized (around 10-15 minutes).
3. Raise the heat back to medium, add garlic and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Add carrots and celery and cook for another 5 minutes.
5. Add the remaining ingredients, reduce heat to very low and simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Recipe #17/20: Lentil Hummus

Well I didn't finish by the end of '09, but I have some pretty cool recipes planned out for the last few. This one is courtesy of my good friend Hillary and the people at This red lentil hummus is quite tasty and good on anything from pita chips to veggies. The only thing I changed was adding the zest from the freshly squeezed lemon as well, since it seemed a shame to throw away perfectly good zest if I were taking the effort to freshly squeeze a lemon. The addition of the zest adds a delightfully bright note to the hummus that would work perfectly for a summer picnic (or in the winter time to perhaps escape the cold, grey weather and pretend you are on a summer picnic). The Chow recipe is also an ingredient for a Lentil Hummus Wrap with Pomegranate Molasses, though I didn't get a chance to make that. I still have some left over, so maybe I will if I can find any pomegranate molasses.

I hope you enjoy this refreshingly little treat. Next stop: Homemade Lentil Pasta!

Red Lentil Hummus
Serves a party as an appetizer with pita chips, veggies, etc. (Makes about 2 cups)

2 cups water
1 cup dried red lentils
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 Tbsp tahini butter
5 Tbsp olive oil
Juice and zest from one lemon
2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1. Boil water, add lentils, reduce to simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes. Drain and allow to cool to room temperature.

2. Place lentils, garlic and tahini in a food processor with blade attachment and pulse until lentils are broken up.

3. With the motor running, add lemon juice and zest, salt, pepper and oil. Blend for around 30 seconds. Scrape down the side of the bowl and then blend for another 40 seconds, or until smooth. Storage in the fridge in an airtight container.

    Wednesday, December 16, 2009

    Recipe #16/20: Lentil Ice Cream!

    Ready for the most commonly posted blog statement?:

    Sorry I haven't posted recently, but I've been really busy.

    Yeah, yeah. Lame excuse. To my defense though, applying to twelve Ph.D. programs does leave little room for lentil blogging. In fact, I made this recipe for Thanksgiving and am not posting it until nine days before Christmas. Since I'm going back to CO to visit the fam during said holiday, I probably won't post anything else until New Years, though between cooking for Christmas and New Years I'll probably be able to finish out the remaining four recipes. Should work out well because then I can start the New Year with another ingredient! Hooray!

    So, lentil ice cream. Thought that this one could be fun. It is partially inspired by the crazy concoctions created by my friend Allison for her new homemade ice cream business, although to my knowledge she has not yet tried my little legume. I think the other inspiration came from finishing off the last of the long-ago-created pate. The flavor was mellow enough that I felt with a little sweetness it could make a decent ice cream.

    No total craziness here (i.e. ice cream made from lentil milk or some such thing). The ice cream is a pretty standard vanilla that is flavored with lentils. After blending, the lentil pulp is strained out to prevent frightening textures, although feel free to leave it in. I just haven't had the chance. Mostly it is just flavored with lentils. The taste was good, although I added a little too much sugar so the sweetness definitely overpowered the lentils. Also, I did not cool the lentils post cooking before I added the cream, so it curdled a little on me. These mistakes have been fixed on the recipe below, so hopefully you shouldn't have those problems.

    Other than that, enjoy one of the few dessert lentil dishes for the project and hopefully I will get something else posted in a more timely manner.

    Lentil Ice Cream
    Serves one to eight people

    1.5 cups green lentils
    0.75 cups brown sugar
    2 cups heavy cream
    2 cups half and half
    1 Tbsp vanilla extract
    1 vanilla bean (optional, but recommended)
    8 egg yolks

    Cook the lentils in three cups of water for thirty minutes. Strain out the water and rinse the lentils until cool. Add cream and half & half and heat on the stove on medium low. When it begins to simmer, add vanilla extract and brown sugar. Simmer on low for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and blend with a immersion blender. (Again, if you don't have one: get one. But for today, transfer in batches to a standard blender.) Strain through fine mesh strainer into another stovetop pot and throw away lentil pulp (unless you like your ice cream chunky). Return to the stove on low. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eight egg yolks. Using a ladle, add small amounts of the hot liquid to the egg yolks, beating continuously. (Without constant whisking, or this tempering step, the egg proteins will coagulate). When you have added about one third of the liquid to the egg yolks, return all of the egg/dairy mixture to the stovetop pot. Stir occasionally for ten minutes, then remove from heat, pour into a large bowl (preferably metal) and put in the fridge. Once the mixture is cold, churn using your ice cream churner according the the manufacturer's instructions.

    Monday, November 16, 2009

    Recipe #15/20: Lentil Lasagna!

    Semi-exciting news on the lentil diversity front! When I went to the co-op to pick up more lentils, (I was running low on green) I found......French green lentils! Also known as Puy lentils, they are a little smaller than traditional green lentils, but look way cooler. They are also supposed to have a richer flavor. Technically, these are not Puy lentils as they were grown in Canada and not one of the few regions in France that reserve the Puy lentil title according to the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, but they are the same botanical variety. Now I just need to get my hands on some black beluga lentils before this project is done.

    As for the lasagna: sadly, the lentils compose only the sauce of the lasagna, not the noodles themselves. I would like to try to make lentil pasta as one of the remaining recipes, but this week I just do not have the time. For those of you who don't know, I am currently in the process of applying to graduate school for a Ph.D. in bioengineering. There are twelve schools I am applying to and as application deadlines are roaring closer, it is tough to make time for super-diverse applications. Perhaps this weekend I'll think of something. On a fun, related note though, I did talk about this project in my personal statement in my applications, comparing my interest in altering lentils into previously unexplored regions to the genetic manipulations conducted in the field of synthetic biology. So if nothing else, at least this project led to an interesting beginning to my application essay.

    On to the lasagna! I found this recipe online after a friend suggested that I make lasagna. It is pretty easy and consists of three parts: lentil sauce, cheese sauce and assembly. I highly recommend making it in the order I have put them, rather than the cheese sauce before the lentil sauce as the recipe has because by the time the lentil sauce is ready, the cheese sauce would have become cold and clumpy. I also like baked recipes like this because while it is in the oven, you can do all of the other dishes so that when it is done, there is almost no clean up left! Also, I added Parmesan on top because every lasagna should have that. I mean seriously.

    The taste is delicious. The lentils have a very meaty texture which compliments nicely with the softness of the noodles and creaminess of the cheese sauce. And with the weather storming outside last night and the temperatures dropping everywhere, the timing is perfect. The only complaint that I have is that I didn't give the lasagna box a little rattle before buying it and it wasn't until I got home that I realized most of the noodles were broken. Still just as tasty though.

    Enjoy this recipe and hopefully by the end of this week I'll have a good number of applications out the door and will be able to start down the home stretch of the Great Lentil Adventure!

    (Also, feel free to leave suggestions regarding the next ingredient to try. I'm curious to know what you think.)

    Lentil Lasagna
    Serves 6 to 8 people


    1 12oz. box lasagna noodles
    7 oz. (200g) cheese, grated (I used raw sharp chedder)
    3 oz. (80g) AP flour
    3 cups whole milk
    1 oz. (2 Tbsp.) butter
    1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
    2 bay leaves
    7 oz. (200g) green lentils
    1 29 oz. can diced tomatoes (I used fire roasted for a little extra flavor)
    2 onions
    1/4 cup vegetable or olive oil
    1 Anaheim pepper (though any mildly spicy, green pepper will do)
    1 tsp each dried basil and oregano
    Salt and black pepper
    1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

    Lentil sauce

    Rinse the lentils and cook in two cups of water for 30 minutes. Finely chop onions and soften on in a large skillet in oil with a bay leaf on medium heat for ten minutes. Add the chopped pepper and cook for a further five minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes, cooked lentils, basil, oregano, and season with black pepper. Mix well and simmer gently for another five to ten minutes, stirring regularly.

    Cheese sauce

    Beat the flour in a small amount of the milk to a smooth, runny, paste in a small bowl. Warm the rest of the milk a little in a saucepan with the remaining bay leaf. Pour some of this warm, but not boiling, milk into the cold milk/flour mix, beating vigorously with a fork. (This is called tempering, in case you wanted to know.) Pour the warm flour/milk mix back into the saucepan containing the remaining warm milk, whisking constantly. Add the butter and bring slowly to a boil, again whisking. Stir the simmering mix for a few minutes, and take off the heat. Add salt and pepper to taste, the nutmeg, and the grated cheese, and stir well until the cheese melts.


    Butter an oven-proof dish. (I used a large Pyrex dish. I think it is around 17.5" x 11" x 2-3", but anything around that should do.) Spoon a shallow layer of lentil sauce across the bottom. Next, add a single layer of lasagna, covering the sauce. Then, add a layer of cheese sauce followed by another layer of lasagna. Repeat lentil, lasagna, cheese, lasagna until all but the cheese sauce is gone, then finish with the remaining cheese. Finally, cover with grated Parmesan cheese and bake in a 350F oven for 45 minute. Allow to rest at least five minutes before serving. Enjoy!

    Tuesday, November 10, 2009

    Recipe #14/20: Spaghetti and Lentil "Meatballs"!

    So naturally, after realizing the cooked lentil cheese in the lentil pizza tasted like meatballs, I had to try spaghetti with lentil meatballs. I've never made meatballs before (hell, I think in the two plus years I've lived in Seattle, I've only made spaghetti once), so I searched around for a few
    recipes in an effort to get a general idea of how most people make them. Essentially, it is just ground meat mixed with a few herbs and spices, then coated in egg and breadcrumbs and browned in oil. Fairly straightforward. I also searched for sauce recipes and found one that I could assemble in the same pan after the meatballs had browned, simmering them for the remaining cooking time. As for pasta, I chose a whole wheat pasta to round out the earthy flavors of the lentil cheese and sauce.

    The meatballs are actually pretty tasty. They are very very lean, so they can be a little bit dry, but they have a nice flavor. I think next time I may mix a little fat in with the meatball mix to help keep them moist. The pasta sauce is quite good and is certainly one that I would use again next time I get around to making pasta. Additionally, the recipe didn't take too long and made enough for leftover lunches for almost the whole week. Other than the actual process of making the lentil cheese, it is a nice recipe for a quick, mid-week dinner. Enjoy!

    Lentil Meatballs
    Serves four to six


    ~1.5 lbs. lentil cheese (see lentil pizza post)
    2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
    3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
    1/4 tsp garlic powder
    3 Tsp dried parsley
    1 egg or 1/2 cup egg nog
    1/2 cup bread crumbs
    1/2 cup olive oil
    1 small onion
    1 29 oz. can tomato sauce
    1 6 oz. can tomato paste
    1 cup stock (either beef or pork)
    2 Tsp dried basil
    1 Tsp anchovy paste (optional, but good)

    1 lb. pasta, cooked

    Combine the lentil cheese, Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 of the Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, and 1 Tsp dried parsley in a large bowl. (As I mentioned above, you could try adding perhaps 2 oz. butter, broken into little pieces, into the mixture in an effort to keep the meatballs more moist, though I have not tried this.) Mix with your hands to combine and form lentils into tight balls about the size of a golf ball. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Dredge lentil balls in a beaten egg or egg nog, then in the bread crumbs and add to the skillet. Rotate each ball every 60-90 seconds until all sides have browned. Reduce heat to low and add remaining ingredients (except for the pasta). Stir gently to combine and let mingle for ~10 minutes. Serve atop pasta with some freshly grated Parmesan. Enjoy!