Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pasta with lentils and kale

Okay, so this is definitely a dish to eat after a night, or weekend or whatever, of excess. You'll feel virtuous just by eating it. And lucky for you (and me), it also tastes good. The flavors are clean and simple, and everything blends together nicely. It's not fancy restaurant food, but it's good, healthy, tasty home cooking. And it has a short list of mostly pantry ingredients, which is great. I'll admit that I was a little skeptical about the recipe at first. I thought that it wouldn't be flavorful enough, so I added a cheese rind to the pot as the lentils cooked. It was a good addition, giving a flavor boost without overpowering the other ingredients. If you're looking for more (and I don't think the recipe really needs it), you could add herbs to the lentil pot or to the finished dish. Just don't go overboard - remember that the strength of this recipe is that you can really taste each individual ingredient.

Pasta with lentils and kale
Adapted from Gourmet Today
Serves 3-4

It is important to use the right type of lentils here. French green lentils hold their shape when cooked, and also have a flavor that blends well with the other ingredients in this dish. Either regular or whole wheat pasta will work nicely.

1/4 cup small French green lentils (lentils du Puy)
1 cup water
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/2 pound onions, chopped
10 oz. Tuscan kale (aka lacinato kale, cavolo nero, dinosaur kale), stems and center rib removed
1/2 pound rotini or other small pasta
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind, plus cheese shavings for serving (optional)

In a 1-quart saucepan, combine lentils, water, cheese rind, and 1/8 tsp salt. Bring to a simmer, and simmer until lentils are tender, about 20-25 minutes. Add more water as necessary to keep lentils just barely covered. Remove from heat when lentils are cooked.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large heavy pan until hot. Add onions and 1/4 tsp salt and cook for 1 minute, stirring. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and golden, about 30 minutes. Uncover and cook until golden brown and caramelized, about 5-10 minutes longer.

While onions are cooking, bring about 3 quarts of water to boil in a large pot. Add 1 1/2 tbs salt. Add kale and boil until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Remove kale with tongs (keep water boiling) and drain in a colander. Coarsely chop kale and add to onions, along with lentils, including lentil cooking water. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Add pasta to boiling water and cook until al dente. Reserve about 1 cup pasta water, and drain pasta. Stir pasta into lentil mixture, and cook over high heat for a minute or two to warm everything through. Add reserved pasta water as necessary to keep pasta moist. Serve with shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano.

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