Lentils with Kale and Shallots
This hearty lentil dish is all about patience and slow cooking. You want the kale to really cook to the point where it just about loses its physical integrity and all of its freshness is dissolved into the lentils. The effect becomes rich and comforting. And while this is completely vegetarian, I am not. Really, I am just opportunistic and I believe in the freedom of what works well. Which is to say, this would be great with bacon!
I prefer very dark green, tiny lentils for this dish, often labeled “du Puy” or “Castelluccio.” They retain their shape when you cook them and have a wonderfully nutty, earthy flavor. Be sure to pour them out onto a plate before you cook them to look for little stones. While they’re rare, you don’t want any of your guests or friends breaking a tooth.
Serves4 to 6
Total Timeunder 2 hours
One Pot MealYes
OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Formal Dinner Party
Recipe Coursemain course, side dish
Dietary Considerationegg-free, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 shallots, peeled and diced
- 5 garlic cloves, peeled and trimmed
- 2 dried red chilies or 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
- 1 bunch kale (preferably lacinato kale, also known as dinosaur kale), finely chopped
- 1 cup dark lentils (see Recipe Note)
- Coarse salt
- 4 cups water
- ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Crème fraîche, for serving
- Some really high-quality, extra-virgin olive oil, for serving
Heat the ¼ cup olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the shallots, garlic, chili, and kale and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the lentils, a healthy pinch of salt, and the water. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer gently until the lentils and kale are not just cooked through, but really soft and lovely, a good hour, maybe even two; it will depend on the age and type of lentil you choose. Splash the mixture with additional water as it cooks if it’s threatening to dry out; you want the final product to be moist, but not at all brothy. Just before serving, stir in the nutmeg and season the mixture with salt.
Serve hot or at room temperature with generous spoonfuls of cold crème fraîche and a healthy drizzle of the raw, high-quality, extra-virgin olive oil.
2014 Jody Williams