Today I was trying to prepare a week's worth of menus and realized that I don't have a proper idea of what's in my pantry. I use about 25% of the staples in it each week, then go to the grocery store because, "I don't have a thing to cook with". I guess it's good to have a storehouse of items in case bird flu ever strikes and I never want to leave the house. But, I decided to make a meal today from the forgotten items in the pantry. The first thing I noticed was the box of Puy lentils that Nancy gave me. Ever since Ulrike informed me that they are called caviar for the poor, I haven't been able to think of them any other way. These are amazing little devils. They hold their shape better than other lentils and have a superior look and taste. I also had some red wine left over from the bottle I opened to make the red onion and red wine soup this weekend. Combined with a few other ingredients, I wound up with a very good meal. The wine gave the lentils a tangy, sophisticated taste, worthy of "caviar for the poor".
Since this recipe contains a substantial amount of wine, I'm mindful of a question asked by Sandeepa, regarding my red onion and red wine soup. She asked about a substitute for the wine, because young children would eat the soup. Like many people, I've always heard that alcohol burns off quickly when you cook with it. But, it's not as simple as that. Apparently, the length of time, whether the pot is covered during cooking, and other factors come into play. If you have any doubts, you might want to read this. I was surprised! And thank you for asking that question Sandeepa.
If one is concerned about the wine in this recipe, a vegetable or meat stock could be used, but you wouldn't have the unique taste that comes from wine. I know that you can get alcohol-free grape juice, made from the types of grapes used to make wine. I've had it before and the juices taste very good. Perhaps that would work.
"Caviar For The Poor" Cooked In Red Wine
(Deborah Madison, The Savory Way)
1 cup of Puy lentils--French green lentils (Or substitute another type of lentil if you prefer.)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 bay leaves
pinch of dried thyme and marjoram
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon tomato paste
2 cups hearty red wine
1-1/2 cups water
red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
1 to 2 tablespoons additional butter
freshly ground pepper
grilled bread (optional)
Rinse the lentils and cover them with hot water. Set aside as you work on the other ingredients.
Heat the 1 tablespoon of the butter and the olive oil in a pot, and add the onions, garlic, bay leaves, thyme and marjoram, and half the parsley. Cook over medium heat until the onions start to color a little, stirring occasionally. Once they have colored, stir in the tomato paste, then add the wine. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minutes. Drain the lentils and add them to the wine. Then add the water and salt to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer until the lentils are tender. If you're using Puy lentils it will take around 50-60 minutes to cook. Other varieties will cook faster--say 40 minutes.
When the lentils are done, taste and season with salt and lots of ground pepper. Add the remaining butter and serve with the bread if you wish. Garnish with parsley. This tastes very good with steamed veggies or a salad. You could also serve it with meat or sausage. I served it with the bread and sauteed shredded brussels sprouts.