This winter, one of my favorite foods was lentils. It nudged onto the list right next to spinach, which doesn't get more perfect than slightly wilted in a hot pan with a touch of oil, a clove or two of smashed garlic (why bother chopping?) and a sprinkling of cayenne pepper and salt.
Because it includes two of my favorite foods, this recipe was one I had to try. Funny story, though - other close readers of Gourmet and Bon Appetit may have noticed the same thing. Each magazine has a recipe write-in section, where readers ask the magazines to search out dishes they've enjoyed in a restaurant - in Gourmet it's called "You Asked For It" while Bon Appetit has dubbed theirs "R.S.V.P." The March issue of Gourmet and the April issue of BA printed the same letter and recipe. Uh-oh! Wonder if Barbara and Ruth had a good chuckle over that, or if someone's head rolled?
Anyhoo, I went with the recipe from Gourmet because it fed fewer people, and because the ingredient list nicely specified cup measurement plus per-piece measurement (e.g. 1 cup or 3 carrots). I thought that was handy. (If you've never looked closely at how recipes are written, give it a go. Everyone has their own style. Maybe one day I'll do a posting on how to write recipes - yep, there are rules to follow.)
To take this from dish to dinner, I steamed two artichokes from my weekly delivery of fresh organic local produce and we munched on those with a little melted Spring Hill Jersey Cheese cultured butter first. Mr. FM opened a Yorkville Cellars Eleanor of Aquitaine 2002, a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. It was unusual - a bit oaky, but still with the familiar crispness of a Sauv B.
Then we had the lentils as our main dish, followed by the best apple spice cake on the planet. (We grabbed two slices from a birthday party last week but I promise to hunt down the recipe.) And yes, there was ice cream.
Lentils with Spinach and Goat Cheese
Yield: 4 servings as a main course, or 6 as a first course
4 cups chicken stock
1 TBSP olive oil
3/4 cup onion, finely chopped (for me, that was 1/2 large onion)
1 cup carrots, finely chopped (2 medium carrots)
1/2 cup celery, finely chopped (2 ribs)
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 1/4 cups French green lentils (10 oz)
2 TBSP mascarpone cheese (If you can't find this creamy Italian cheese, substitute cream cheese. Cream cheese has more tang than mascarpone but it still works in a pinch.)
2 tsp olive oil (or a spray of Pam if you're watching calories)
1 lb. fresh baby spinach leaves
3 TBSP goat cheese
1. Bring stock to bare simmer in a 2- to 3-quart saucepan (you can skip this step if you don't have enough big pots).
2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a 4-quart heavy pot over medium high till hot but not smoking. Add onion, carrots, celery, bay leaves, salt and pepper and saute until just golden about 4-5 minutes. Add lentils and stir to coat with oil. Add stock, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer until lentils are tender and most of the stock is absorbed. (Okay, so here I part ways with both magazines. They say this will take about 30-40 minutes. I let it go for closer to 45 and the lentils were still too al dente for my taste. If this happens to you, I'd throw either a 1/2 cup more chicken stock or, if you're out, water and let it simmer another 3-5 minutes until the lentils are done the way you like them.)
3. Discard bay leaves, stir in mascarpone and keep warm. (You can also stop at this step and refrigerate the lentils for a day or two before reheating and finishing them off with the next step.)
4. Heat oil or cooking spray in non-stick pan over medium heat and saute spinach until just wilted, 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and scatter on top of lentils. Crumble goat cheese on top of spinach.