We all do it, right? The ubiquitous stack on the bedside table, or by the easy chair, or on the dining room table. It teeters tipsily; we stub a toe on it. We confess the size of our stack on our blogs, half rueful and half proud. We read them in bed like novels, or browse through them during breakfast like magazines—turning down corners or marking pages until the cookbooks bristle with tape flags. We sigh over the pictures, maybe read bits aloud, and then gaze into the middle distance contemplating a new idea. It’s called food porn for a reason.
My particular method for replenishing my stack is to check out cookbooks from the library. When a recipe catches my eye online and I start to salivate, or I read a review, or see the latest gigantic, glossy tome on display at the book store, it goes on the library list. If, after spending a few weeks with the cookbook, admiring the pictures and reading the recipes, I still think I might like to own it and will cook from it often, I can always go out and buy it. This saves me from the eleventy-million cookbook impulse buys I would otherwise make. Those coffee table-sized cookbooks aren’t cheap! And when the stack gets alarmingly high…it’s back to the library I go.
Deborah Madison’s cookbooks have been showing up in the stack lately, as I cook a lot of vegetable-heavy meals. I like her straightforward, unfussy approach to food. This recipe for Wine-Braised Lentils with Greens was adapted from Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen. It’s simple, and made from ingredients that I usually have on hand. The lentils do take a while to cook, so this is a dish that I prefer to make on a weekend, or on a weeknight when I happen not to be starving. Perfect as a side dish, maybe with some grilled fish and a vegetable, the leftovers also make a satisfying stand-alone lunch. If anything, the flavor improves after a few days in the refrigerator. Whether on the first night or the fourth, I just never seem to get tired of this intensely savory, hearty meal.
Wine-Braised Lentils with Greens
(Adapted from Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen)
- ¾ cup French green or black lentils, cleaned and rinsed
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/3 cup diced onion
- 1/3 cup diced celery
- 1/3 cup diced carrot
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 cups red wine
- 1 tsp prepared Dijon-style mustard
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 big bunch spinach or other greens, such as kale, leaves only, washed
- 1 tbsp butter or walnut oil, or to taste
Parboil lentils for 15 minutes and drain.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 2- or 3-quart saucepan. Add diced onion, carrot and celery and cook over medium-high heat for several minutes, browning them a bit. Add crushed garlic, mash tomato paste into the vegetables, then pour in the wine and stir in the mustard. Add 1 cup of water, the drained lentils, and 1 teaspoon salt. Simmer, covered, until lentils are tender, 30 to 40 minutes.
While the lentils are cooking, film a heavy-bottomed skillet with olive oil, and cook remaining onions over low heat, stirring frequently, until caramelized. Add a splash of water as necessary to prevent over browning.
Wilt spinach in the same skillet in the water clinging to its leaves. Season with salt and pepper. (kale will take about 7 minutes.) Stir cooked greens into the lentils, add 1 tablespoon of butter or walnut oil, taste again, and season to taste.