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Friday, January 15, 2010

Not all meals are created equal: Lentils and Pasta-Part 1

Last night, for dinner, I knew that I needed to make something that only used stuff I already had in the house. I've had a bag of lentils for a few months that I've been wanting to use. Only problem is, I've actually never cooked lentils before. Oh sure, I enjoy lentil soup. A lot in fact. And lentils are extremely, extremely healthy. I mean, they're basically all fiber and protein, low calorie, no doesn't get better than that, does it? No, it doesn't. But for some reason, they've always scared and intimidated me. I have NO REAL REASON for this, I swear.

I also wanted to make something healthy, but comforting, and had about half a bag of a really great whole wheat orecchiette in the cabinet. I also have about 4 tons of frozen tomatoes from my garden--two years ago. (We didn't do a garden last year which leaves me sad in the middle of winter.) I knew in my head that all these things added up together COULD make something delicious, but I really wasn't sure just what, yet.

In the spirit of trying new things and helping you guys find the fun in experimenting with things that can intimidate you, I figured I'd work it out last night. I went online and did a google search for lentils and pasta. Turns out, it is a pretty traditional Italian recipe, most often from Naples. Don't ask me why I always turn to the internet. I have a collection of cookbooks that is outstanding--I actually seek out vintage cookbooks for inspiration all the time--but the internet just always seems faster. Terrible, I know.

Also, something to know about me is that I am often TERRIBLE at following recipes. Though I'm not a chef, or even someone who has taken a cooking class, I always think I know better. It's a curse. But most often, I find, that it works. So, I pieced together parts of recipes I liked (also parts that included things I had in the house) and went to work on a Lentil and Pasta dish for dinner last night.

It turned out...ok. It was one of those dishes that my husband (let's just call him J) and I both really liked, but spent about 15 minutes discussing how to make it better next time. I don't have a picture of it, because the color wasn't exactly attractive. It came out a mushy brownish green sort of color, but it really did taste delicious.

I'm not going to give you the recipe, because I need to keep working on it. But here is what I learned.

Lentils are EASY. They are easy and healthy and delicious and ridiculously cheap. I mean, CHEAP. They are our winter friend, adding fiber and protein to almost anything we want--chili, stew, soup, pasta.
What I made last night needs some work, but it helped me get over a longstanding completely nonsensical fear of lentils. I will also say this about my dish last night. It was really good. And I will be doctoring up the leftovers, working on the plan for Lentils and Pasta-Part 2.

This weekend, why not try to go out and find an ingredient, like lentils, that you know you like but have never cooked with. Go online, look in a cookbook, and find the most basic cooking directions for said ingredient. Try it out. Pair it with something, and go from there. The absolute worst thing that can happen is it will be completely inedible. But honestly, it most likely won't be. You'll find that you have figured something out, which will make you feel like you accomplished something.

And you won't be scared anymore.

Post your fears/successes in the comments and let me know how it all turns out!


  1. tweet, tweet, tweet- your my very first tweet. I joined tweeter about a year ago . But I never tweet. I have got a great Lentil soup recipe, it is amazing!!!!. Ina Garten, 'lentil vegetable soup" ( t from - the barefoot contessa cookbook). If you can't find it on line let me know- she has many lentil soup recipes- this one is the best :)

  2. I heart lentils! Especially the red ones, that could help your brownish-green color issue :) Murph