Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Pasta with Lentils and Kale

I know this meal sounds totally lame.  Pasta with Lentils and Kale?  I mean really?  But I promise it's good.  Yes, I did pick it because I wanted a simple vegetarian meal and the recipe was both vegetarian and only included 9 ingredients (10 if you include the water).  And most of the ingredients, with the exception of the kale, are ingredients we always keep in our pantry or fridge.  We always have dried pasta of various shapes, Parmigiano-Reggiano, evoo, whole-grain bread to make into homemade bread crumbs...  Anyway, yes I know the dish sounds lame and too healthy for its own good.  But the pasta is actually really good.  I loved the caramelized onions - they are deliciously tender and savory-sweet.  And I actually quite enjoyed the lentils because they added a different texture and some earthiness.  I also think that without the lentils the pasta wouldn't have been quite as satisfying.  The homemade toasted bread crumbs are key for some buttery flavor and some texture.  They are really easy to make, and they really do make a world of difference in a dish as simple as this one.  I think that the Parm-Reg added less, although if you have it on hand I would recommend freshly grating a little onto the dish for another level of flavor. 

Recipe after the jump!

Pasta with Lentils and Kale
Adapted from Gourmet
April 2007

1/2 cup French (small) green lentils
2 cups water
7 tbsp evoo
1 large onion, finely chopped (2 cups)
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 slices whole grain bread, coarsely chopped into crumbs in a food processor (to make toasted bread-crumb topping)
large bunch kale
3/4 lb dried short pasta
freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Simmer lentils in water (2 cups) with 1/4 teaspoon salt in a 1- to 1 1/2-quart saucepan, uncovered, adding more water if necessary to keep lentils barely covered, until tender but not falling apart, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat and season with salt.

While lentils simmer, heat 1/4 cup oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté onion with pepper and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, stirring, 1 minute. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and golden (stir more frequently toward end of cooking), about 20 minutes. Remove lid and increase heat to moderate, then cook, stirring frequently, until onion is golden brown, 5 to 10 minutes more.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spread bread crumbs out on a large rimmed baking sheet.  Toast in the oven until golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 8-10 minutes.  Toss bread crumbs with 1 tbsp evoo and s&p.

While onion cooks, cut out and discard stems and center ribs from kale. Cook kale in a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water , uncovered, stirring occasionally, until just tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer kale with tongs to a colander to drain, pressing lightly. Keep pot of water at a boil, covered.

Coarsely chop kale and add to onion along with lentils (including lentil-cooking liquid), then simmer, stirring, 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper.

Add pasta to boiling water and boil, uncovered, until al dente. Reserve about 1/2 cup pasta-cooking liquid, then drain pasta in a colander. Add pasta to lentil mixture along with about 1/3 cup of pasta-cooking liquid (or enough to keep pasta moist) and cook over high heat, tossing, 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons oil.

Serve, topped with toasted bread crumbs and freshly grated Parm-Reg.

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