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!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Recipe #13/20: Lentil Pizza! with.....Lentil "Cheese"!

Yeah! Lentil Pizza! To be specific, the crust is made of lentils. Well, that and the lentil cheese, but I digress.

A couple weeks ago, I was walking home from work and was struck with a sudden realization. Back during the epic night of eating at Sutra, which I had already mentioned was the inspiration for the delicious Chocolate Avocado cookies, we also had a spanakopita that contained pecan cheese. When I asked one of the waitresses, she explained that the cheese was actually made from fermenting the pecans and then separating them into curds and whey. I thought, could this work with lentils? Well, I found a recipe for Almond cheese and thought I would give it a try.

It turned out....interestingly. I sprouted a batch of lentils, but decided atleast for the first attempt not to remove all of the casings, like the recipes does with the almonds. Adding the water, I blended them with my stick blender and then covered them with cheese cloth to ferment for a day. After fermentation, they went in a stock sock and I drained them of the whey. The flavor is....well, bland. And since they have low fat content, they don't really perform like cheese (melting, etc.). But I thought I'd give it a try on the pizza, supplementing with other cheeses.

So now, the lentil pizza. Aside from the cheese, the only lentils that I used were red lentils to make the pizza base. It is quite tasty, but not really like a traditional pizza dough. Best eaten with a knife and fork, this pizza base has a nice, simple savory aspect provided you bench your assumptions about how pizza dough should taste. It is extremely simple, so next time you want to make a pizza give it a try. I used a recipe for the pizza sauce I found online and for toppings I just added some of the lentil cheese, parmesan and chedder (WSU Cougar Gold Smoked Cheddar!) The sauce was quite good, but the kicker?: The lentil cheese. Did it melt like the cheddar? No, but in fact it actually tasted like meatballs. Yup, meatballs. So, enjoy this pizza and in the meantime, I've found another use for the lentil cheese. :D

Lentil Pizza

For pizza sauce
Serves 3-4, depending on toppings and appetite


  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 6 fluid ounces warm water (~110 F)
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste (optional)
  • 3/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • salt to taste


  1. In a small bowl, combine tomato paste, water, Parmesan cheese, garlic, honey, anchovy paste, onion powder, oregano, marjoram, basil, ground black pepper, cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes and salt; mix together, breaking up any clumps of cheese.
  2. Sauce should sit for 30 minutes to blend flavors; spread over pizza dough and prepare pizza as desired.

For pizza base


7oz lentils

  1. Grind the lentils in a coffee or spice grinder until they resemble a fine flour. You could use a strong blender.
  2. Sieve the lentils into a bowel.
  3. Put aside a few pinches of the lentil flour in the bowl.
  4. Add to the lentil flour in the bowl 5 tablespoons of water and make into a dough.
  5. You may need to add more or less water to get the dough to the right consistency.
  6. Flour a surface and roll out the dough to a thin circular shape.
  7. Place on an oven tray and heat at 300F for 10 mins in an oven.
  8. Now put the toppings of your choice on, including sauce from above, and return to the oven.