Pasta with Kale, Lentils and Caramelized Onions
It’s Winter. We had a late start, but then it came with a vengeance. The temps had been bordering on unbearable (for us weak Torontonians) The wind was whistling away for a few days in a row. But this Monday seems to be pretty decent (until this evening when freezing rain is due!) The laundry has been started, so the cats will be in their happy place before long (sleeping in the fresh out of the dryer towels!) I had my obligatory berry and yogurt smoothie (with a touch of Maca and Sprouted flaxseed powder) to make up for the mild indulgences of the weekend. And since it’s Monday, I’m trying to stick to the plan of Meatless.
I really don’t mind meatless. Most days. There are so many marvellous alternatives. Nuts, seeds, legumes, even some cheeses are decent sources of protein. One of my favourites is chestnuts. I’ve subbed chestnuts for chicken in all sorts of recipes through the years. I guess I should collect them and share with you all!
Today it will be lentils. I love lentils. But there are times when I feel like lentils are just EVERYWHERE! It’s like every other recipe photo posted on IG or on Pinterest highlights lentils these days. I feel smothered by lentils. Although smothered lentils would make a great dish! So I think I’ve been holding back from adding to the lentil avalanche. Or tsunami. Or however you may feel overtaken by that lovely little legume. I know 2016 was the year of the pulse (another word for legume-dried beans etc) But really, we’ve been getting lentils etc in our meals regularly our whole lives from our mom. I remember as a kid, my sister’s favourite soup had barley in it. Mine had lentils in it. And we each detested each other’s choice! My poor mom, if she made the one soup, very quickly she would have to make the other soup, or else there would be dissension amongst us girls. So eating and cooking with lentils isn’t new to us.
These days I like lentils in dishes that usually revolve around pasta or rice. I guess my favourite lentil dish would have to be Mujadara. A lovely Middle Eastern dish of rice, lentils and fried onions. It’s all about the spices in the dish. Another great dish is Koshari. It’s Egyptian. Rice, lentils, pasta, fried onions, with a touch of a spicy tomato sauce. Almost like a chilli. These dishes are pretty similar in ingredients. I guess that’s why I like them both. I’ll share the Mujadara recipe really soon. The Koshari recipe is already here for your viewing and cooking pleasure!
Today I’m making pasta with lentils, caramelized onions and kale. This recipe is originally from one of my Gourmet magazines. Sadly, Gourmet is no longer with us. Such a brilliant cooking magazine. But the recipes were fabulous. As is this one. All sorts of goodness in one dish. Protein is found in both the lentils and kale. So is fibre. The onions have a velvety yumminess. And the fabulous toss of parmesan on top, well, that’s for a touch of protein, but mostly for fun and flavour. And of course, even though it isn’t in the original recipe, I add hot pepper flakes. Just really needed here to add some depth to the final impact.
A few steps are needed to bring this dish together. Using Lacinato Kale is the best choice- it doesn’t require the cooking time of other kale varieties, and adds almost a smokey flavour (if you get what I mean) You can totally make this with gluten free pasta. And you can start this dish in advance- even caramelizing the onions in the morning or the night before and storing them in the fridge till needed. My other change is this: I cook my lentils in chicken stock. It just adds another layer of flavour. If you truly want this to be a Meatless meal, or if your cooking style is completely meatless, then you can replace this with vegetable stock. Or even good ole water! Which leaves this as as totally wonderful dish to serve any day of the week, let alone Monday! Stay warm 🙂
- 1/2 cup green or brown lentils (Turkish or French)
- 2 cups of chicken or vegetable stock (or water)
- olive oil
- 2 medium onions, small dice (you should get around 2 cups)
- 1 bunch of lacinato (Tuscan) kale, centre ribs removed
- 3/4 lb of small pasta: tubular, penne, rigatoni, even macaroni if that's all you have on hand)
- 1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes (or to taste)
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Place the lentils and water in a small pot and bring to a rolling simmer. Drop to a low simmer and cook, uncovered, adding more stock or water as needed to keep the lentils just covered. Cook for about 20 minutes, till tender but not mushy. Remove from heat and season with salt.
- While the lentils are simmering, heat 3 tbsp of olive in in a 12 inch heavy skillet or pot over medium high heat. Saute the onions with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper stirring them through. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook, stirring occasionally until the onions are golden brown and softened. Keep and eye on them and stir more regularly as they get close to being done. This should take around 20 minutes. Then increase the heat to medium and keep cooking till golden brown, about another 5 or so minutes.
- Stir in the lentils and any liquid and simmer, scraping up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Season with more salt and pepper, to taste.
- While the onions are cooking away, chop the kale into medium sized pieces.
- Start cooking the pasta in a 6-8 cup pot of well salted water, according to package directions.
- About 7 minutes before the pasta is finished cooking (most pasta takes around 8-9 minutes, test by biting into a piece, it should be just tender, but not enjoyable yet) add the kale to the pot. Stir and boil, until the kale is just tender and the pasta is al dente.
- Reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water.
- Drain the pasta and kale through a colander.
- Add the pasta and kale to the onion and lentil mixture in the pan. Add about 1/3 of the pasta water- just enough to keep pasta moist. Cook everything for 1 minute over medium high heat. Add more water if needed, only about 1 tbsp at a time though.
- Add the hot pepper flakes and season with more salt and pepper if needed.
- Drizzle with olive oil.
- When serving, drizzle with 2-3 tbsp of grated parmesan cheese.
- This is a great recipe to prep for: remove the ribs from the kale, chop and store in a plastic bag overnight.
- Cook lentil and onion mixture in advance and store in a container.
- Then all you'll need to do is grate the cheese, reheat the onions and lentils over low in a large skillet, cook the pasta, add the kale and then toss it all together as per above.