Soups de Lentilles

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In 2014, my daughter and I visited Stéphane Gabart of the My French Heaven blog. I’ve sung his praises many times before on this blog as the result of now three visits to him in his French heaven.

His expertise, of course, are food and wine, but because visits are customized to your interests, he also can take you to castles, fortresses, and places like Abbey de la Sauve Majeure.

It was at the Abbey, in their gift shop, that I purchased a beautiful French cookbook, called “The Cuisine of our Grandmothers.”

Stéphane sent me a photo of me holding the bag with my new cookbook and, of course, also fiddling with my camera. And I had to throw a pic in of my gorgeous daughter, walking with me in the French countryside.

The cookbook is beautiful, with creative artwork, interesting stories and anecdotes.

I decided to make a lentil soup recipe from the cookbook because it contains two interesting ingredients – crème fraiche and hazelnut oil. And, the soup is puréed.

Why in the world would I think that a cookbook purchased in France would be in English? Silly American. Thanks, Mom, for the translation help.

Lentil Soup
printable recipe below

300 g of Le Puy lentils, about 10.6 ounces
2 carrots
2 shallots
1 celery stick
2 cloves garlic
Bit of butter, about 1 tablespoon
20 cl creme fraiche, about 6.7 ounces
80 g butter, about 2.8 ounces
Salt
Pepper
8 cl hazelnut oil, about 2.7 fluid ounces
2 ounces diced, smoked bacon

Peel, rinse, and chop the carrots, shallots, celery, and the garlic into small pieces.

Let them cook softly in a little butter in a large pot over low heat.

Add the lentils and add three times the volume of water.


Let the lentils cook for about 20-25 minutes.

Stir, then add the crème fraiche and butter.

Emulsify the soup with a hand blender, and incorporate the hazelnut oil.

Pour the soup into warmed serving bowls, and top with the cooked bacon.

It kind of bothered me to purée the lentils. I love the taste of le Puy lentils, but I love them also because they hold their shape, which is why they are not only good for soups, but even side dishes.

I should have put the lentil soup in a blender, but decided the texture was fine semi-puréed.

The texture obviously had no affect on the flavor, which is what I was most interested in. Unfortunately, the hazelnut flavor was too mild, and I wasn’t willing to add more oil.

But what I did love was the creaminess of the soup. Next time I’ll definitely include a bit more butter and crème fraiche, but not bother with the hazelnut oil, except for maybe a drizzle on top.

 

Lentils

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If you’ve been reading my blog for any time now, you’re probably aware that I’m in love with legumes of all kinds. White beans, black beans, beans of all sizes, shapes, and colors. And, of course, all kinds of lentils. East Indian cuisine refers to all of these as dal, or dhal, but I am used to the word legume.

The wonderful thing about legumes is that they are terribly inexpensive. I made sure both of my daughters knew how to cook beans when they set off on their own. If you’re on a budget, it’s really good to know how to create a lovely pot of any kind of beans. Cooked beans can be dinner, lunch, or breakfast. They can be a soup, salad, entrée, dip, side dish, and much more.

Lentils are also healthy because they have protein, as well as a lot of fiber. So between that and the fact that they’re cheap, it’s a definite win-win! I actually learned everything I know about beans when times were tough. I refer to those as our “lean” years. I managed a food co-op, which also helped with the grocery bill at the time, and spent a couple of years eating beans. But I still love them!

Today I’m focusing on lentils, because they’re even easier than beans to prepare. Mostly because beans are their larger counterpart, so more cooking time is involved.

My favorite are the lentils called Le Puy, from France, that I can order online for approximately $8. – 10. per pound. But there are both Spanish and Italian lentils that look and taste the same to the Le Puy varietal. Plus I just learned but haven’t sampled a French variety called du Perry. And I’m sure lentils grow elsewhere in the world as well.
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The Le Puy are my favorite because they hold their shape, and they have a real meaty taste. But there is another, more popular and available lentil, at least to Americans. They are only called lentils. No other name. I used to turn my nose at this variety and think of them as inferior, because within minutes these lentils turn to mush. But they do taste good, they’re still healthy, and sometimes you want lentil soup. In that case, these are the ones to buy. They’re also less expensive than imported lentils, at approximately $1.20 per pound bag.

Le Puy lentils on the left, regular lentils on the right

Le Puy lentils on the left, regular lentils on the right

The Indian orange and yellow varieties also mush up easily, which makes them wonderful for soups as well, plus dips. If you want them to hold some semblance of shape, you just have to be vigilant when cooking.

Today I’m going to show how easy it is to prepare lentils. I’m doing a side by side cook of the regular “grocery store” lentils, and Le Puy lentils. By the photos, you’ll be able to see how differently these two varieties cook up, and I’ll give some suggestions on using them.

And speaking of photos, I need to apologize in advance. On this day, I’d taken a walk outside because it was warm and sunny, and when I came inside to cook the lentils, I completely forgot to change the white balance. What a difference that adjustment can make!

Lentils

12 ounces lentils, dry
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Approximately 18 ounces of chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Weigh the lentils and place them in a large bowl.
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Fill the bowl with hot water to about 2″ above the top of the lentils. Set the bowl aside for one hour.

regular lentils

regular lentils

Le Puy lentils

Le Puy lentils

When you’re ready to continue with the recipe, heat up the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat.

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Add the onion and garlic to the saucepan and sauté them for 5 minutes.

Once one hour has passed, the lentils will have hydrated and almost reached the top of the water. Drain the lentils in a colander.

these are the regular lentils

these are the regular lentils

Once the onion and garlic are ready, pour in the drained lentils. Then immediately add the chicken stock.
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Add the chicken stock till it hits right at the top of the lentils.
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Then bring the lentils and broth to a boil, cover the saucepan and reduce the heat.

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For the regular lentils, cook them 10 minutes. They will look like this when they’re done. When you give them a stir, you can see that they mush up, or disintegrate. Notice also that there’s no liquid at the bottom of the pot.
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On the other hand, after 15 minutes, the Le Puy lentils have soaked up most of the liquid, and they hold their shape, even after vigorous stirring.

goodlentils
Remove the lentils from stove and let them cool. The regular lentils will continue to absorb liquid, but the Le Puy will not.

Because of the fact that the regular lentils disintegrate, I like to use them for soups. They can easily become a dip as well, but the dip won’t be pretty. Use your pink or yellow lentils for those dips.

Today I “souped” up the lentils by adding more chicken broth and giving them a good stir. I could have alternatively puréed the lentils in a blender for a smoother soup. Then I and added some grilled Kielbasa, or Polish sausage, and topped off the soup with a dollop of sour cream.
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The lentils, of course, can be seasoned in any way you desire, and other ingredients like leeks, red bell peppers, celery, and carrots can be added to the aromatics. Thyme is really nice with lentils, as is some white pepper. Today I kept things plain, because lentils really have good flavor on their own.

For the Le Puy lentils, I also kept them plain, but paired them for lunch with curry-seasoned chicken breast.
lentils

In fact, curry powder ingredients go really well in lentils, as do any seasonings. You can even make them Southwestern as well, adding jalapenos, ancho chile powder, some chipotle peppers, and cilantro. Lentils are very versatile.
lentils1

As you can see, the Le Puy lentils really hold their shape even though they’re fully cooked. That’s why they’re so perfect as a side dish like this, or on their own as an entrée.

Curried Lentil Salad

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You all know that I love lentils. They’re delicious and healthy, but they’re also versatile. Once they’re cooked, you can serve them as a side dish, as an entrée, a soup, a dip, or a salad!

Well this salad I’m posting on today is delicious year ’round. It’s equally good in the winter as the summer months, and every month in between. It’s a lentil salad tossed with a curried garlic-citrus dressing. The dressing I made is as important as the salad itself.

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I feel it’s very important to match dressings or vinaigrettes to salad ingredients, which is why I prefer to make my own dressings from scratch. And when it comes to salads made predominantly, if not exclusively with legumes, I find that lemon- or lime-based dressings are preferable over vinegar. And I love vinegar, don’t get me wrong. There’s just something about that acidity that pairs well with the legumes. I find it true with grain salads as well.

So today’s salad is a combination of cooked lentils, with some celery, carrots, and dried pomegranate seeds. Good, but not great. In addition, I’ve made a fabulous lemon juice-based dressing with a little twist. I hope you enjoy it.

I am not posting an exact recipe, because none is needed. Just go with what you like in the salad as well as with the dressing. Remember – no rules. It’s your food, you make it how you like it!

Lentil Salad

For the salad, I simply borrowed some lentils that I’d cooked the day before. Make sure the lentils are well-drained for the salad, if there’s an abundance of cooking liquid with the lentils. Alternatively, or use a slotted spoon to collect them. Then place the lentils in a medium-sized serving bowl, depending how big your salad is going to be.

To the lentils add thinly sliced celery and carrots. You could also add shallots or purple onions as well.

At this point, taste the lentil salad and make sure it is well seasoned. There’s no need going forward if the lentils aren’t seasoned to your liking. Salt and pepper should do the trick.

I cook my lentils, typically, in water with a chicken broth powder added. It’s a wonderful product I’ve talked about before, that I buy in 1 lb. packages online. The chicken flavor of the broth adds enough seasoning to the lentils so that for me, no more is required. It “rounds” out the lentil flavor nicely.

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Toss the salad gently, and then make the dressing.

Curried Garlic Citrus Dressing

Juice of 3 lemons, strained, about 1/3 cup
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons orange-infused oil
2 small cloves garlic, minced
3/4 teaspoon curry powder*
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric

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In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, and oils. Then add the garlic and seasoning.
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Give everything a good stir, and you’re ready to go.
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Place the lentil salad in bowls for serving, and top with the dried pomegranate seeds. Raisins or currants would work just as well.
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Add as much of the dressing you want to each salad; I like a generous amount.
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Toss gently to get the lentils coated with the dressing, and enjoy.

This salad is best at room temperature.

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* I use a Penzey’s curry powder called sweet curry powder that I like. I wrote about this product in a post before, albeit a very short post, because I find this curry powder a decent blend if you don’t make your own from scratch. If you’re not too fond of curry, which is actually many, many different spices all mixed together, I would start out with a very small amount and work your way up. But I would try it. The lemon juice, the orange oil, the curry, plus the lentils and dried pomegranate seeds go so well together, it would be a shame to not experience these flavors!

note: If you don’t like the sharp bite of fresh garlic, place all of your ingredients in a mini blender and purée the dressing before using. Also, if you don’t have an orange-infused oil, a good olive oil will work well.