Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

Lentil Love

Written by Kristin Grippo
My Grandma Lucy would slurp up whatever was at the bottom of her bowl, no matter the meal. Anything she made was that good. Clear garlicky broth from spaghetti with clams, reddish-brown muddy remnants of lentils and macaroni, she wasn’t about to waste one drop; it would be a sin. And if anyone dare shoot a crooked eye at the parsimonious emptying of her dish, Grandma would laugh right along with them, beaming. “It’s good for you!” she’d declare, pointing a dainty finger toward the bowl, “So many vitamins...”
My Grandma Lucy would slurp up whatever was at the bottom of her bowl, no matter the meal. Anything she made was that good. Clear garlicky broth from spaghetti with clams, reddish-brown muddy remnants of lentils and macaroni, she wasn’t about to waste one drop; it would be a sin. And if anyone dare shoot a crooked eye at the parsimonious emptying of her dish, Grandma would laugh right along with them, beaming. “It’s good for you!” she’d declare, pointing a dainty finger toward the bowl, “So many vitamins...”

When I was younger, at whatever age flawed table manners are acceptable, I would lick my entire bowl to the last drop and Lucy always got a kick out of it. Without fail, I’d lower the saucer from my face to reveal Grandma across the table, beaming and shaking her head from side to side. Sometimes she’d be nodding her head in commendation, hand outstretched toward me, palm up, as if to exclaim to everyone present, “You see? This kid’s got the right idea! She knows what’s good for her!” And, of course, that made me important. With that first scent of garlic and onions sautéing on the stove, the glimpse of a meticulously put together arugula, fennel, and orange salad, the first taste of a stray pignoli from Grandma’s meatballs, we understood at once. This was more than shining Italian peasant food. It was Grandma Lucy’s love.

As the chill of winter creeps in, I like to make a warm and filling pot of my mother and grandmother’s “lentils with macaroni.” This traditional and easy recipe makes for a great vegetarian entrée. You can find lentils in bulk at most health food stores, or in prepackaged bags in the rice aisle of the supermarket. Be sure to serve with a nice crusty loaf of bread to sop up the soup at the end!
 
A Lesson in Lentils
Lentils, a member of the legume family, have an incredible amount of health benefits, in addition to being tremendously tasty.
• Lentils are a good source of fiber
• Lentils, like beans, are a good source of protein. Lentils also provide calcium and phosphorus, vitamin B and iron.
• Lentils can help lower cholesterol and manage blood-sugar disorders
• Lentils are low in fat--only 230 calories for a whole cup of cooked lentils!

Lentils and Macaroni
serves six
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped *
2 medium carrots. finely chopped*
2 celery stalks, finely chopped*
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 cup brown lentils (1/2 lb.)
3 cups vegetable stock (plus more for thinning the broth)
1/4 lb whole wheat or regular spaghetti (about 1/4 of a box)
grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
* To save time, chop the onion, carrots, and celery in a mini-chopper or food processor.

1. Rinse lentils in a colander with cold water and drain.
2. Heat oil in a large pot, over medium heat.
3. Add onion, carrots, and celery. Sautee 5 minutes, or until soft.
4. Stir in tomato sauce and lentils.
5. Add the 3 cups of vegetable stock.
6. Bring stock to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cover loosely, so steam can escape.
7. Leave lentils to simmer for 25-30 minutes. If it seems too dry, add more vegetable stock. (I like this dish on the soupy side, so I add lots of liquid as it simmers.)
8. While lentils cook, put another pot of water on to boil.
9. Break up spaghetti into 1-inch pieces. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, and set aside. (It’s best to throw the pasta in at the last minute so that it doesn’t overcook while it’s sitting. If you do make it early, be sure to rinse it with cold water to stop the cooking process.)
10. When lentils are firm with some give (but not mushy), remove from heat.
11. Add the pasta to the lentils.
12. Season with salt, pepper, and lots of grated cheese.


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