I didn’t mean for this dish to be so good. I was really just looking for something serviceable as a vehicle to explain how to cook lentils. But it turned out to be so easy and delicious, I might just be making it all the time. Is two nights in a row too much?
I have organized the instructions to make this as quick of a recipe to prepare as possible. Just to show that cooking dried beans doesn’t always require tons of foresight and careful planning. The flavors are very Italian, inspired by the traditional lentil and escarole soups of Italy. But this dish is even simpler, and apart from the greens, you might find everything to make it already in your pantry and fridge.
2 c. lentils, rinsed.
1/2 t. salt
2 1/2 – 3 c. vegetable broth or water
2 T oil, butter or bacon fat
1 small onion
2-3 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
The juice of 1 lemon
1/2 c. grated pecorino or parmesan cheese
two handfuls of greens (escarole, kale, mustard greens, spinach)
freshly ground black pepper
3-4 large servings(as a main course), 5-6 small portions (as a side)
Bring the water or broth to a boil. Rinse the lentils and discard any off-color or strange looking beans (they can have nasty pieces of grit in them). Toss the lentils into the hot liquid and add the salt. Set aside. I know, I know, lentils don’t have to be soaked, but since I’m trying to make this dish really quick to prepare, the quick soak in salted water (remember salt helps preserve their shape) will reduce the cooking time. So why not soak while you peel and cut your onions?
Prepare Onion and Garlic:
Dice onion and mince Garlic. Place your Butter or oil in a saucepan or skillet over medium high heat. Add onions and saute until translucent. Reduce heat to medium and add garlic. Cook for about a minute until garlic is fragrant, but not browned.
Throw the soaked lentils, the garlic and onion and the bay leaf into a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a low simmer. Cover and set your timer for 20 minutes. Stir the lentils at least once during cooking and add a little water if necessary so that the lentils stay submerged. After 20 minutes check the lentils often for doneness (they can quickly go from under to overdone). When lentils are tender remove from the heat.
Add Greens and Season:
While lentils are cooking wash and coarsely chop your greens. Grate cheese. When lentils are done, throw in greens and stir to combine, allowing the heat from the lentils to cook the greens. Add lemon juice and about a third of the grated cheese. Stir to combine. Adjust seasoning to taste.
Ladle into bowls , sprinkle liberally with grated cheese and finish with a drizzle of olive oil and some black pepper.