A bag of black lenitls has been haunting me for I don't know how long. Everytime I open my cupboard I see it slouching in the back next to a half empty box of quinoa and several boxes of pasta and the same thought goes through my head. "I've got to figure out SOMEthing to do with those lentils." Every so often I'll encounter an interesting recipe that calls for lentils but inevitably it gets shelved in favor of my lasted obsession for whatever vegetable just came into season. "I could make that curried lentil hummus I saw on Martha's website...although fava beans won't be around much longer."
Driving home from work a few nights ago, I pondered what I ought to make for dinner. I only had limited time to make whatever it is I decided on (Top Chef was to start in exactly one hour). I thought about what I had on hand and again my thoughts turned to that lonely bag of lentils. As I snaked down Sunset Boulevard, I recalled that there was a recipe for lentils in the always realiable Balthazar cookbook that I've been wanting to try. Upon my arrival home I quickly went over the ingredient list to see what, if anything I needed to pick up to make these this dinner happen. Turned out all I needed was bacon, something that I could easily fetch from the nearby Trader Joes. With aproximately 50 minutes until Top Chef was to start, I hustled over to to get what I needed, and while I was there, I also picked up some salmon. The book suggests serving the lentils with a very simple entree of salmon with a crust of dijon mustard and bread crumbs. Although this might be one of the quickest dinners I've ever prepared for myself, it's also among the most delicious.
1 cup lentils
2 slices of bacon, diced small
4 sprigs of thyme
1 small onion, diced small
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 small carrots, diced small
2 small stalks celery, diced small
freshly ground black pepper
RInse the lentils in cold water. Pour four cups of water into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the lentils and simmer gently for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the bacon and thyme in a small saucepan over a medium flame. After about two minutes, when some of the fat has rendered from the bacon, add the onion, garlic and salt and cook for about 5 minutes, until the onion is translucent.
Add the butter, carrrot, celery, 1 cup of water and season with pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.
Drain the lentils and return them to ther saucepan. Add the bacon-vegetable mixture and simmer over low heat for about 5 minutes, just until the lentils are tender and the mixture is no longer soupy.
I think that sometimes I get caught up in the idea that a recipe needs to have a long list of ingredients or that it should require a lot of involved technique to make it sophisticated and delicious, but I suppose as the old well-worn saying goes, sometimes less really IS more. Who would have thought that a simple pot of lentils could bring so much pleasure on a busy weeknight? Thyme give this dish a subtle, woodsy depth of flavor and the bacon imbues the lentils with an amazing smokey, richness. The lentils are cooked perfectly and the carrots and celery are soft yet still retain a fresh, crisp bite.
Thankfully I made extra so in the days that followed I could snack on the leftovers, eating forkfulls straight from the plastic storage container as I stood in front of my open refrigerator.