Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Recipes #11&12/20: Lentil Bread and Lentil Pate with Lentil Beer Update!

Two lentil recipes for the price of one! Huzzah! One of the recipes that I wanted to do over the course of this project was lentil bread. Bread is such an iconic staple of the human diet that I knew that it would need to be included at some point. Also, it wasn't any entirely original concept; many multigrain breads that you can buy at the grocery store are beginning to rely on the nutritive power of lentils for enrichment. The goal then was to find a recipe worthy of its place as a lentil bread. While blind experimentation, as I have toted, is tons of fun and leads to creatively inspired, if sometimes unintentional, dishes, baking is a whole different animal. Especially because I rarely bake. So my goal was to find a recipe that most utilized the lentils. I wanted not a big, soft loaf that happened to have lentils, but a dense loaf packed with nutritive lentils rather than fluffy, gluten-stabilized air bubbles.

Unfortunately, that didn't quite happen. As is common with most of my dishes, I found lots of recipes that added lentils as an ingredient to lots of other things but never was the star. While I would still like to eventually experiment at making a lentil-rich loaf, I decided that I would still try one of these lentil-additive loafs. The Lentil Bread that I decided to use is a pretty simple recipe combining lentil puree with flour, yeast, water/milk, oil and a little onion and garlic for something extra. Having a stand mixer always helps while mixing, but this recipe is at the limit that it can hold as the dough climbed up the bread hook and tried to work its way into the motor (that's what I get for being distracted). Despite being messy and sticky (as all my limited baking work seems to be) the recipe turned out tremendously well. The bread is everything that a wheat-flour bread should be: soft, chewy, slightly fragrant and, since I made it myself, unbelievably fresh. The lentils are faintly present, but if you didn't know they were there you might only notice them by the slightly green color on the inside (vaguely reminiscent of a matcha bread that a coworker once made). Also, mine was changed a little from the recipe. I only had one cup of bread flour and the rest was All-Purpose, so I switched the whole-wheat for the bread and the bread for the AP: the recipe still came out fine.

The other recipe that I'd had for forever was a Lentil Pate. I figured I would do it alongside the bread because a) it is very quick and easy and b) I thought it would go well on a slice of toasted lentil bread. As far as lentil recipes go, this one is a cinch. Cook, blend, cool. It is not exceptionally flavorful, but the texture is nice as a spread. I tried it on a piece of the bread and it helped perk the flavor a bit, but I think the texture would have been better contrasted if I had toasted the bread first (which is difficult to do since it was my lunch at work). I would use this recipe as a baseline and add different spices to it according to your endgame: curry powder, smoked paprika, lemon juice and ground star anise. The possibilities are endless.

Lentil Bread
Makes 3 loaves (approx. 36 slices)

  • 3/4 cup lentils, rinsed
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 4-1/2 teaspoons finely chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water (110° to 115°)
  • 1-1/2 cups warm fat-free milk (110° to 115°)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 6 to 7 cups bread flour


  • In a saucepan, combine the lentils, water, onion and garlic; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until lentils are tender. Cool slightly. Transfer mixture to a blender or food processor; cover and process until smooth. Cool to 110°-115°.
  • In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the milk, lentil mixture, oil, sugar, Parmesan, salt, whole wheat flour and 3 cups bread flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining bread flour to form a soft dough. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
  • Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into thirds; shape into loaves. Place in three greased 9-in. x 5-in. loaf pans. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. Bake at 375° for 35-45 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool.
Lentil Pate
Serves 6 to 8 or a party as a cracker spread

1 cup lentils, pre-cooked in 2 cups of water OR 1-1/2 cups canned cooked lentils, drained
1 sweet onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced finely
6 teaspoons margarine
1 teaspoon black pepper
Water if necessary
1/2 teaspoon vinegar

In a large saucepan, gently saute sweet onion and garlic in the margarine over low heat until soft, but not browned. Season with black pepper. Add lentils and heat until warmed through.

Scrape lentil mixture into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal chopping blade. Process until smooth, adding water if necessary. Add vinegar and pulse until combined.

Serve lentil pate at room temperature with toasted bread rounds or savory crackers for a delicious vegetarian appetizer that will appeal to all.

Lastly, as promised, a lentil beer update! I have consumed now consumed...lentil beer, sort of. And lived! Let me explain.

As I have discussed many times, the seemingly ultimate challenge to test the versatility of lentils I decided to try was lentil beer. Rather than an individual hurdle like many of the other recipes contained, lentil beer required utilizing multiple novel techniques as well as detailed planning. The steps:

1) Traditionally, beer is made from wheat or barley malt, hops, yeast and water (adjunct grains, like rice, are used in mass-quantity, domestic beers as filler). The alcohol comes from the fermentation of sugars in the malt by the yeast. Therefore, in order to make lentil beer, I would need to discover how to make lentil malt.

2) Research regarding malts led to lots of cool tidbits on the only part of brewing I had yet to try (I have always used canned malt extract when making batches of beer). The most helpful realization: the barley or wheat must first be sprouted in order to cause the grains to release amylase, which breaks the long starch molecules in the plants down into smaller components that the yeast can ferment. (Tangential fun fact: another source of amylase is saliva, so technically I could chew the lentils and spit them into a container to provide the amylase, which is the traditional technique for the Latin American, corn-based drink, Chicha.) So now the questions is: can I sprout lentils?

3) Anyone who has read the sprouted lentil stir fry knows that I found out the answer is yes. And that it is done quite commonly. So I decided that in theory if I were to mash the sprouted lentils and heat them in a pot of water at around 170F and a pH of 5.5, activating the amylase, then I should be able to get a sugary wort from the lentils to use in fermentation. So that is what I tried. Unfortunately, my specific gravity did not go up. In brewing, the amount of sugar is usually measured by specific gravity (which is the density of the liquid with respect to water). Larger specific gravities mean more sugar in the solution. When the beer ferments, the sugars turn into alcohol, which is lighter than water, so the density goes down. Measuring specific gravity allows you to both calculate the fermented sugars (and thus alcohol percentage) as well as verify that the fermentation process is completed so that it does not start up again after bottling, resulting in exploding bottles. Since my specific gravity didn't go up, it meant that I didn't have significant amounts of sugars in the wort to facilitate brewing. At this point I had consumed a few beers and began to get frustrated, so I started grabbing handfuls of brown sugar and throwing them into the wort. And this is where the recipe begins to deviate from ideal. With the sugar added, there was now fermentable material, so what I needed was yeast.

4) For yeast I had planned on using Chimay Belgium Trappist Ale yeast. This is one of my favorite tricks in brewing. Anytime you buy a bottle-conditioned beer (Belgian trappists, German hefeweizens, etc. are popular options), the yeast used to brew the beer are still in the bottle. Since there aren't sugars left for them to digest, they lay dormant; however, if you decant most of the beer and then add the last yeast-rich slurry to a little sugar, voila!, they awaken and begin fermenting anew. Thus if you ever want to brew a beer closely in the style of a Belgian trappist, what better way than to use the exact same yeast strain? So I decanted most of my bottle into a glass and then added the rest to my one quart of wort, hoping it would ferment. I put it in a mason jar and added an airlock to the top.

5) Sure enough, the beer fermented and after I measured the specific gravity, I was able to determine that I had made 6.4% alcohol beer! I added a little bit of sugar to be fermented for carbonation and bottled the mixture into two bottles: one 12oz. and one 22oz. After waiting a week, I chilled it in the fridge and gave it a try. It is....interesting. It is very bright with heavy apple and citrus notes. Having had the Chimay, I know that most of these tastes were produced by the yeast itself as it fermented the brown sugar; however, there is an underlying body and almost earthy taste that comes from the lentils. It may not be a beer that I would want to drink in endless glasses but it was good enough to make me want to try to make it again for real.

6) Which brings me to my last point. Lentil Beer: Part Deux. I'm still not sure exactly how I will fix the wort-making process, but I am currently sprouting two batches of lentils that hopefully I will be able to turn into sugary goodness. I will keep you posted on the status, but the fact that the first batch was more-than-palatable makes me excited that I might be able to create an enjoyable lentil beer. And that would be a feat for this project.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Recipe #10/20: Barbecue Baked Lentils

When I first began this project, I scoured the internet for lentil recipes, creating a substantial stack of pulse possibilities. They were quickly forgotten, however, since at the time I was concerned about quantity and frankly many of them would have made it difficult to consume the required lentil quota for each meal. This recipe is not one of those, but it became forgotten in the stack all the same. Recently, I pulled out the dusty tome and remembered how exciting some of them looked, and while I have had a blast throwing together whatever happens to be in my kitchen I figured I would take a little break and try some of these fun-looking recipes while I recharge my creative engines. This recipe is essentially just a legume-swap: an American classic (Barbecue Baked Beans) where the beans have been swapped for lentils. While the cooking time adds up to over an hour, there is very little prep work that needs to be done or attention that needs to be paid while cooking, so it is a great side-dish if you are cooking a main course that requires your utmost concentration.

Fun fact regarding the liquid smoke: I recall an episode Alton Brown's Good Eats where he made homemade liquid smoke! He started a small fire with some fragrant wood chips, cedar I think, in the base of a chimenea, and on the top he placed a Bundt pan over the spout. Finally, he put a metal pie dish, upside-down, on top of the pan and put a bag of ice on top. As the smoke comes out, it condenses on the cold pan and runs down into the bottom of the Bundt pan. At the end, you just funnel it into an eye-dropper and voila! liquid smoke. Sadly, I have none of those things, but if I did I would totally make my own liquid smoke.

Barbecue Baked Lentils
Serves eight

2-1/3 cups lentils, rinsed
5 cups water
1/2 cup molasses
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp vinager
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tsp dry mustard (or 1 Tsp Dijon mustard)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
16 oz. tomato sauce
2 Tsp minced onions
1/4 tsp liquid smoke, optional (I didn't have any, but it would have been cool if I had.)

Add lentils to the water, bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes or until tender but whole.

Add molasses, brown sugar, vinegar, ketchup, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, tomato sauce, onions and liquid smoke to the cooked lentils, stirring to combine.

Move mixture to large glass baking dish and bake at 350F for 45 minutes.

Enjoy! (Optionally, a little grated cheese on top works wonders.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Recipe #9/20: Roasted Peppers, Veggies and Sprouted Lentil Stir fry

Sprouted lentils are fascinating creatures. I came across them originally while in pursuit of the illusive Lentil Beer (soon.....). I'd obviously heard of alfalfa sprouts and the variety of other kinds that one might find in a salad buffet, but I'd never heard of lentil sprouts before. Guess what? They are amazingly easy. A coworker had told me that she makes them by soaking the lentils in water overnight and then just keeps them in a mason jar with a holed-out plastic lid, washing them twice a day. I thought I would give it a try and while I was at the co-op looking for large mason jars, I realized that the co-op actually sells sprouting kits. In addition to mason jars, they have a set of three plastic lids with different size holes (a really small one for rinsing alfalfa seeds, a medium-sized regular one and one with large holes to allow lentil skins to pass through post-sprouting) as well as packages of sprouting lentils, sprouting alfalfa seeds, etc. Well I saw no difference between the packaged 'sprouting lentils' and the regular bulk ones, so I just went with the bulk. I did pick up a large, one quart mason jar, though, as well as the pack with the three lids. (While just poking holes in the mason top would seem like an acceptable solution, the exposed metal will rust after washings and give not-so-delicious rust taste to your lentils.)

Back home, I soaked some lentils overnight, wondering how long it would take for them to sprout. To my surprise, within 24 hours they begin to sprout and within 72 they were pushing out of the top of the mason jar! I've experimented with decreasing the starting volume of lentils, but even with this batch one cup of dry lentils filled the entire jar in four days!

It took me a while to think of a good recipe for these sprouted lentils because served raw they are fairly bitter. Used in moderation, for example as a salad garnish, they would be nice, but I was looking for something where I could use a sizable portion. Well one tried-and-true method for helping take away the bitterness in greens is heat. This recipe calls for a two-fold approach: a quick blanching to bring out the remaining color in the greens as well as wash them of their soaking water and a stir fry to heat them back up before serving. I was pleasantly surprised with how this recipe turned out. The heat from the peppers combines with the softness of the veggies (you can reduce cook time if you like them a little crisper) to form a sort of spicy ratatouille. Add in the lentil sprouts and the entire texture changes, complete with the light firmness present in the remaining lentil hulls. As winter approaches I will probably resort to the dish several times. It is extremely healthy, (sprouted lentils are actually better nutritionally then normal ones, one reason being that they are a complete protein containing the amino acids that are lacking pre-sprouting) with lots of vitamins and minerals and only a limited number of calories. Plus, a bowl full of cooked veggies is pretty damn comforting after a cold day outside. So enjoy this little creation, I know I did.

Roasted Peppers, Veggies and Sprouted Lentil Stir fry
Serves four people

1 cup lentils, sprouted ~four days
2 cups carrots, sliced (approx. six or seven large)
1 large onion, chopped
6 zucchini squash, sliced
3 red bell peppers
3 red Fresno peppers
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper

Cover a baking pan with aluminum foil and add bell and Fresno peppers. Place under the broiler in the oven, rotating occasionally, until the skin on all sides is charred. (Alternatively, if you have a gas range, you can use tongs and char the skin directly over the burner flame.) Run under cold water to cool, peel off top and skin and clean out seeds. Slice both into thin strips and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to boil and add sprouted lentils to blanch for sixty seconds, then drain and add to an ice-water bath to cool. When cool, drain, dry with paper towels and set aside.

In a large skillet or wok, add olive oil and heat on medium-high until oil is hot. Add onions and 1 Tsp of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Next, add carrots and zucchini and stir occasionally for 15 minutes. Finally, add the lentil sprouts and roasted peppers and cook for five more minutes. Salt and pepper to taste and serve in bowls with sliced bread and a tasty brew.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Recipe #8/20: Green (Lentils), Eggs and Ham!

Hooray! Green, eggs and ham! Sure, the green does not refer to the eggs themselves but rather the color represents the type of lentils in the dish, but I thought it was fun and clever. Additionally, since the genesis of this project I have wanted to do some sort of roasted bone dish with lentils (the original idea was roasted oxtail bones, though perhaps that will still happen if I wander down to one of those awesome Vietnamese grocery stores), though in this case ham hock will have to do.

I must confess: the from-scratch dishes this project have been my favorite. By from scratch I don't refer to the ingredients (even though they for the most part are), but rather the ideology. Sure, it is always fun to try new recipes (like the ones in this blog, hint hint) but there is nothing like having seemingly nothing at home, but taking the few things that you do and making something delicious. So while recipes are good (especially for fickle things like baked goods), I strongly encourage you to experiment. Practice will help create natural associations to help make everything delicious!

Fun tangential food adventure today! The Puget Sound Mycological Society is having their annual Wild Mushroom Show this weekend. I saw about it a couple weeks ago and added it to my calendar, so today I figured I would check it out. After a modest seven dollar entrance fee, I entered what I can only describe as a fungal paradise. On a half dozen super-long tables, were over 200 mushrooms embedded in dirt-filled wooden square boats. They were labeled green, yellow or red: edible, untested/unpalatable, or poisonous. I've been wanting to do some foraging recently and this display just showed me how little I know. There was also a cooking demo (which affirmed my desire for boletes) as well as some vendors selling everything from foraging guidebooks to blocks embedded with spores to grow your own mushrooms at home. The last thing I did was listen to a lecture by Langon Cook, who has a blog about foraging and using found ingredients in recipes and has recently published a book. His talk was fascinating: dividing foraging into prime seasons with shellfish in winter, greens in spring, berries in summer and mushrooms in the fall. So many things growing in the wild that are so close to us here in the Pacific Northwest! I'm excited to start foraging!

This recipe turned out delicious. It is essentially just a variation of split pea and ham....just better. The one I made is essentially the same, except that I still had that extra package of beef chuck that was going to go bad, so I cubed it, browned it and added it in as well. Mmmmmm protein. Enjoy!

Green (Lentils), Eggs and Ham
Serves approx. four people

3 medium ham hocks
3 cups green lentils, picked over and rinsed
9 cups water
1 Tsp salt
2 tsp pepper
~4 eggs

Place 3 ham hocks on a foil-covered pan and roast in a 450F oven for 20 min. Combine lentils and water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a low simmer and add the ham hocks and juices when they are done in the oven. Add salt and pepper and cook on low for 1.5 hours. Remove the hocks, shred available ham and add back to the pot (If this seems like too much work, you can always add the hock to your bowl and do it while eating). Serve immediately with a fried egg on top of each portion. (The lentils and ham keeps and reheats well...the egg less so).

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Recipe #7/20: Beef Lentil-Goulash

Hooray for spastic recipes! I was at Safeway looking for ingredients for a recipe after this (no I won't give away what it is), but they had no green lentils. They did have yellow lentils though, which I hadn't noticed before (I've purchased almost all of my lentils at the local co-op). As I am want to do, I passed by what I have dubiously named the 'discount meat bin'. Essentially it has meat that has been discounted either because it is in bulk packaging or they have too much of that cut (and it looks and tastes just fine). Beef chuck was about half off ($1.99/lb) so I grabbed a couple 3 lb. packages and tossed them in the basket.

So now I'm at home with beef, lentils and beer. What to make? Some sort of cubed beef dish perhaps. Why not try a take on beef goulash? Cook the lentils, brown the beef cubes, and then simmer everyone together. Some changes were made (the beef really doesn't need to be dredged in flour since the lentils have plenty of thickening power already) but the underlying actions are the same.

As with most recipes that I make up on the fly, this one is a little different than how I actually made it. I started with 3 cups of lentils so it turned into more of a soup, which I guess it was since I didn't have any noodles or rice. It was good, but a little overwhelming. I think with a little more beef-to-lentil ratio served in smaller portions atop rice or noodles would work really well. Also, I used olive oil which worked fine, but I wish I had used butter. This dish should work well if you have people over as the prep time is quick and once the beef start simmering in the lentils you don't have to worry about it. You might be able to cut the 1.5 - 2 hour cook time a little, depending on how much connective tissue is in your cut, but it won't be as tender. Enjoy!

Beef Lentil-Goulash

Serves, oh, say 6 people.

3 lbs. beef chuck, cut into 1 in. cubes
4 oz. butter (Sure you could use less, but then it wouldn't be as delicious. Plus, this makes lots of servings)
8 oz. dark beer (I used a porter. Also, "8 oz." is about what is left of a beer if you drink a little whilst cooking)
2 cups yellow lentils
6 cups water
1 Tsp salt
1 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground star anise
1/2 tsp cumin
(Rice, noodles or any other applicable starch device.)

Place lentils and water in a large pot on medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover for 30 min. (If you're having a problem with the foam boiling over, try a little olive oil on top to reduce surface tension.) Add spices and puree with a stick blender. (If you don't have a stick blender, buy one [search under immersion blender]. If you are making this tonight and don't have one, transfer in batches to a normal blender.) Next, melt butter on a large non-nonstick pan (you want that tasty fond) until it just begins to brown. Add cubed beef in batches, browning on all sides and then transferring to the pot of lentil puree. When all the beef has been browned, deglaze the pan by pouring on the beer whilst whisking furiously. Add tasty beer, butter, fond mixture to the pot and stir. Heat covered on low for 1.5 - 2 hours, stirring occasionally. To serve, ladle on top of rice, noodles, etc. and enjoy (with another bottle of your tasty brew).

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Chocolate Avocado Lentil Cookies - Recipe #6 of 20

Two recipes already this week, but do I go for another? Hells yeah! Let's preface: finished off a long day of work and Katie and I were hanging out at my apartment. I'd printed off Alton Brown's Lentil Cookies recipe a while ago, but had never gotten around to it. Why not make it tonight? Only downside? I didn't have most of the extra ingredients (rolled oats, dried fruit, coconut). Hell, since I'm going away this weekend, I don't really have a whole lot of anything. I did have avocados, though, since they were on sale last time I was at the grocery store. Add avocados to cookies? Sounds weird, but then I remembered a delicious dessert at Sutra: a chocolate and avocado mousse. Now when most people think of avocados, they automatically draw a connection to guacamole-like applications, which tends to conflict with the idea of desserts. But if you think about it, avocados are themselves sweet and smooth. That's what they do when they are say, put on a burger. So when placed with a powerful taste like chocolate, they add a sweet, creamy texture with a lingering hint of avocado flavor.

So I thought, if it worked for the mousse, why not a cookie? Plus, I realized that I didn't have any butter, so perhaps the avocado could work in its place. So that's what I did and it worked. Quite well. I used a little too much cocoa powder, so I've changed the recipe to use a little less while adding chocolate chips instead. Feel free to experiment a little. I'd recommend placing something in the center of the cookies before putting them in the oven: maybe a marshmallow, or a balsamic-reduced sour cherry. The possibilities are limitless.

Last thing: it seems like both the original intent of this recipe, and especially the modified version, is designed to get the nutritional value of lentils into something traditionally devoid of nutrients (also fun fact: replacing the butter with avocados also reduces the recipe by ~1000 Calories and 120g of fat, so how's that for revolutionary cookbook idea), while not necessarily contributing flavor from the lentils themselves. While this would probably reduce my score in Iron Chef: Battle Lentils, I figure for a couple of the twenty recipes, sacrificing lentil flavor to get nutritional value of lentils into a dessert is okay.

Here's the recipe, which is in two parts to include the lentil puree:

Chocolate Avocado Lentil Cookies

9.5 oz. AP flour (approx. 2 cups)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
0.5 tsp ground allspice
4 Tbsp cocoa powder
8 oz. sugar (approx. 1 cup)
6 oz. avocado (approx. 1.5 avocados)
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1.5 cups lentil puree, recipe follows
3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375F.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder, salt, cinnamon and allspice.

In the bowl of a stand-mixer with a whisk attachment, cream together the sugar and the avocado on medium speed. Add the egg and mix until just incorporated. Add the vanilla and lentil puree and mix until combined. Add the flour mixture and blend on low speed until just combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the chocolate chips.

Form the dough into balls about 2 tsp in size and place on a baking sheet with parchment paper, leaving about 1-in. of room in between. Bake for 11-13 minutes, or until an internal temperature of 195F is reached.

Lentil Puree:

4 oz. lentils (approx. 2/3 cup), picked over and rinsed
2 cups water

In a small pot over medium heat, combine the lentils and the water. Bring to a simmer, cover, and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, or until lentils are tender. Remove from the heat and puree. If made in advance, put in fridge to cool (can be done up to 4 days) otherwise put in the freezer for 30 min. until room temperature. Yields 1.5 cups.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Squash-stuffed Wentil Crepes & Butternut Squash and Mushroom Lentil "Risotto"

I realize it has been a while since I've posted anything in the lentilblogosphere and to anyone reading this, but also to myself, I apologize. After changing the protocol for this project multiple times, I removed the sense of urgency which, while helping to alleviate stress and maintain peace of mind, has induced sloth and laziness. I need some sort of goal/deadline to maintain a dust-free keyboard. So new goal: two recipes a week. If I do more, good for me. But atleast two recipes a week. Hooray.

So now to the fun. Let me explain wentils: A couple weeks ago, Lindsey, Katie and I were driving around looking for somewhere to get some grub. We ended up at tidbit cafe in Roanoke, but in my hungerpains, I bemoaned how we should head to my place for LENTILS! This digressed to wine and lentils, which was shortened to wentils (and later combined as coffee-wine-lentils to KWENTILS! or cheese-wine-lentils to CHWENTILS!) Although Katie and Lindsey tired of my continual barbaric lentil cries praising our favorite pulse, the idea of wine and lentils forming some sort of creation stuck with me, so when I got home I put a cup of red lentils in a bowl with enough cabernet sauvignon to cover. A little plastic wrap on top, the bowl sat on the counter forgotten for several days.

Leave it to necessity to be the muse of creation. Katie was over last week and we decided to cook dinner. Crepes, perhaps? Sounds great! What's in the fridge? Eggs? No. Milk? No. Well, shit. Missing most of the essentials behind crepes. In fact, it seems that I only have cheese, squash and....what's this? WENTILS! Why not make wentil crepes and stuff them with squash? So that's what I did and sure enough, they were quite tasty. I ran out of squash before the lentils crepes were done, so I put cheese in the last few. After making them, I realized that had I combined the two, it would have been awesome. So here it is:


1 cup red lentils
1 cup red wine
1/2 cup AP flour
4oz. butter
1 medium-sized winter squash (butternut, acorn, etc.), peeled and chopped
6oz. chedder cheese, sliced
Shredded Parmesan cheese (I used raw goat with lavender and fennel, but that's just because I had that around)

Soak the lentils for at least 3 hours in the wine, then add to a blender with 2oz. melted butter and pulse to blend. Add the flour, quarter cup at a time, and blend until smooth. (Disclaimer: It has been a while and some of these measurements were not exact, but feel free to play with this. It should be a little more watery than pancake batter; if it is too watery, add a little flour, too thick, a little wine or water.) Roast the squash at 425F for 25 minutes. Heat a large skillet on medium heat. Add a pad of butter and swirl to coat. When the butter is nice and hot, add half a cup of batter to the pan and smooth out to a thin layer. Important: wait four or five minutes for lentil crepe to cook, then lift lightly from the edge into the center, waiting if the crepe begins to crack. The lentil crepes, like the pancakes from before, take longer than you might think, but once you can get a large spatula under the crepe, it is good to flip. Cook the opposite side for 4-5 minutes then add squash pieces and chedder cheese, fold to close and shred paremesan on top. (I like to put them on a plate in the oven at ~250F while I cook the others to keep them warm and help melt the cheese.)

Mmmmm chwentil crepes. The crepes themselves obviously have a very strong wine flavor, but when mixed with the squash and cheeses, pairs nicely.

Now to the second item on the post's menu: Butternut squash and mushroom lentil "risotto". Yesterday, I figured it was about time for another lentil dish and with the approach of winter, I thought I would go for something earthy and savory. After cooking lots of lentils, I've learned a thing or two and I've found that when regular old green lentils are cooked just beyond the point of traditional doneness, one can breakdown the lentils to an almost risotto-like consistency. That was the goal of this recipe: to take traditional risotto additions, like butternut squash and mushrooms and add them to lentils cooked as a risotto. And it turned out pretty well. Here it is:

Butternut Squash and Mushroom Lentil "Risotto"

3 cups green lentils, rinsed
1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
4-6oz mushrooms (I used brown button, but feel free to experiment), sliced
1/2 onion, minced
4oz. butter
48oz. chicken stock

Peel and cube the butternut squash and bake in a 425F oven for 20 min. In a large pot, melt butter and then saute the onion for around five minutes, until lightly browned. Add mushrooms and sweat for five minutes. Add butternut squash, lentils and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook covered for 30 min, stirring occasionally. Remove lid and reduce to a risotto-like consistency while stirring regularly. Salt to taste.

This dish is great on a cold winter evening and turned out to be a great twist on the traditional arborio rice version. I prefer to have larger cubes of butternut squash and slices of mushrooms since they tend to have a more playful mouthfeel when you get some on the spoon.

So here's two more recipes and better yet, I made them up from scratch! Yeah! Back to the grindstone, and I'll be back next week with two more.