Way down yonder in New Orleans, we’re obsessed with beans. And not just red beans. We’re crazy about butter beans (large limas), navy beans, pintos, split peas and black-eyes. Oh, and we also look forward to cooking with Great Northerns, black beans and chickpeas. And I can’t forget fava beans. We like to stash one of those in our coin purse to insure that we’ll never go broke. That’s an American-Creole-Italian thing–although I did discover during my CSA days that favas make a mighty fine dip! Then there are those other less popular types of “legumes” (a word we never use) that seem to collect dust on store shelves. Lentils are among them. I mean they do occasionally pop up on restaurant menus as a soup or as a bed for some type of protein. But they alway seem to lack that wow factor, which may be why they’re never at the top of any New Orleanian’s bean list. That’s always made me a little curious. So when I came across this unique way to prepare lentils, I decided to try it.
In this recipe, which I found in Emeril Lagasse’s cookbook entitled From Emeril’s Kitchens, the lentils are cooked down in the usual bean way but finished with oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes. The tomatoes are one of my pantry staples. I value the seasoned “tomato oil” almost as much as the tomatoes themselves. And in this dish, the oily, robust tomatoes give the otherwise boring lentils depth and substance. The feta cheese, which is something I added to the recipe, pairs nicely with the tomatoes and adds a little extra tanginess to the finished dish.
This lentil ragout is the perfect antidote to a cold winter’s day and a dish that will go nicely with all those healthy eating resolutions. Enjoy a bowl by itself, serve it over a whole grain like brown rice or quinoa or dish it up with a lightly seasoned piece of chicken or fish.
Sun Dried Tomato and Lentil Ragout Recipe
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1 garlic clove, minced
1 pound dried brown lentils, rinsed
8 cups chicken stock or broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup oil-packed sun dried tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, for garnish
In a large stock pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, heat oil. Add onions, celery, carrots and garlic; cook, stirring frequently, until tender, 3-5 minutes. Add lentils, stock, salt and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. Add sun dried tomatoes; cook an additional 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in parsley. Sprinkle individual servings with feta cheese. Makes 6-8 servings.
Recipe adapted from Emeril Lagasse’s From Emeril’s Kitchens.