Saturday, January 29, 2011

Spiced Lentils with Mushrooms and Chard

The first time I made this dish I was deep in the throws of a nasty head cold, and it was a blessing since it didn't require any fancy knife work, and packed a good punch of sinus-clearing flavor.  The recipe is from last month's Food and Wine, and the first time I made it, since my sense of taste wasn't picking up subtleties, I made the recipe as is.  It was good, and Matt inhaled it (always a good sign!) but today I tweaked the recipe a bit, made it less watery, more focused in flavor by stepping things up a bit, and used white button mushrooms instead of shiitakes, because, well...they taste good and are a heck of a lot cheaper, especially when bought loose.  This dish is insanely healthy, so if you want to eat a ton of it and turn the below recipe into 2 servings, knock yourself out.

Although it may seem like an optional condiment, the sriracha as a finishing touch really brings this dish together with a sweet, puckery spiciness.  The picture is of my serving, so just a few dots of sriracha on mine, but Matt's looked like lattice work, with long lines of sriracha stretching across the bowl.  The only wild card here in terms of how fast the meal is on the table, is how fast your lentils cook, which can vary depending on age.  The older the lentils, the longer they take to cook.  Also, if you have to entertain vegan people and non-vegan people simultaneously, this dish will make everyone happy.  If you aren't entertaining vegan people, toss a poached or fried egg on top to gild the lily.  If you aren't light eaters, definitely add the egg, and some nice bread on the side too.  Maybe a rye with some sharp cheddar along with it...but I digress....

Serves 4 modest meal-sized servings (and makes great leftovers!)


  • 1 cup green lentils
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 1 pound mushrooms (white button, shiitake, crimini or mixture) stems removed, caps sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • kosher salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 3/4 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • a few (and then a few again) grinds fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 medium bunch chard (green or red or rainbow), stems and ribs removed, cut into ribbons
  • Sriracha
  • Put lentils and bay leaf in small pot, cover with a couple inches of water.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat very low and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender.  This will take 20 to 40 minutes, so start testing after 20 minutes so you don't overcook them.
  • Meanwhile, prep the mushrooms and chard (this is what makes the dish quick, if your lentils cooperate and cook quickly).
  • In your widest saute pan with sides, or big pot with a wide bottom, heat the olive oil over medium high heat.
  • Add the mushrooms, sprinkle on a couple big pinches of kosher salt, and cook, stirring regularly, until all the liquid is thrown from the mushrooms, and most, but not all liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are tender.
  • Add garlic and spices and cook for a minute or so, stirring.
  • Add chard ribbons, and stir into mushroom mixture, until wilted. (depending on how big your pan is, you may need to add the chard in handfuls, stir it down, then add another handful and so on).
  • Drain lentils, discard bay leaf, and add lentils to chard and mushroom mixture.
  • Serve with sriracha at the table.

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