Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Food: Lentil Almond Stir Fry with Brussels Sprouts and Potatoes

The reason I love food and cooking so much is due to the amazing opportunity to try new things. There are always innovative techniques to learn and flavors to taste. And even though I've had my share of disappointment and frustration (a disaster called pretzel rolls, for example...one of many failed experiments I may share with you some day), for the most part, the culinary world is very satisfying.

With that in mind, one of my newest learnings in the past year has been the versatility (and the super satisfying flavor) of lentils. Why it took me over 30 years to discover this, I'm not quite sure. But I have learned to know lentils is to love them. I mean how many healthy and hearty foods can you pair with so many different flavors and still end up with something mighty tasty? And to make it even better (yes, you know there has to be a nod to simplicity or speed in this posting) I love the fact that Trader Joe's has a pre-steamed version (I know, I know...I've mentioned these before when I posted this elegant and simple salmon with lentils recipe...).

The history behind today's posting has to do with one of my favorite blogs - Heidi Swanson's 101 Cookbooks. Heidi's been blogging since 2003 and not only has she introduced me to some wonderful cooking techniques (like this one for pan frying dried gnocchi - did you know you don't need to boil it?!?) but her food photographs are beautiful and seem to perfectly represent how glorious the recipes are going to taste. It just so happens the blog is vegetarian but her dishes and recipes are truly inspirational and encourage me to eat more hearty grains and experiment outside the traditional veggie dishes. And every lentil dish I've tried on her site has been fantastic. In fact, her lentil burgers (with my own spin on them) were good straight out of the skillet for dinner and then...I ate two straight out of the fridge for lunch the next day (I'll post my version of that recipe in the near future as well). Hence my new obsession with lentils.


So with all of that pomp and circumstance, I need to bring the focus back to today's main dish...A lovely, lentil-almond stir fry. First, let me point out some common misconceptions. One, a stir fry does not need to be steeped in Asian flavors or drowned in soy sauce to be considered as such. And two, lentils are not only found in vegetarian Indian dishes and actually pair quite well with things you might not have considered such as mint sauce, brussels sprouts, and dates.

I'd consider this recipe from Heidi to be flexitarian. In other words, you could add meat to it if you'd like, but it's also plenty fulfilling on its own. I actually served this one evening as a bed for a filet of pan-seared mahi mahi - and drizzled the mint sauce on the fish. It was quite wonderful. But really, the star was what the fish was placed upon. You've got z
esty and bright mint sauce. Cooling yogurt. Earthy lentils. A slightly sweet hint from the dates. The crunch of almonds. Carmelized potatoes -AND- brussel sprouts. And it's particularly gorgeous if you're able to find blue potatoes - there's just something about a colorful plate of brown, green, white, and gemstone blue that makes everything taste all that much more fulfilling.


Quite honestly, I'm drooling on my keyboard just thinking about this recipe. And the coolest bit is depending on the accessories you garnish or pair this with, it really can play in all seasons. It's hearty and warm but just as tasty served cold. I am definitely a fan of lunchtime leftovers that I don't necessarily need to heat up in the grimy workplace microwave...I'm sure for many of us that goes without saying.





Lentil Almond Stir Fry
Original Recipe by: 101 Cookbooks/Heidi Swanson



INGREDIENTS




MINT SAUCE



  • 1 c fresh mint leaves


  • 1/2 chile pepper, de-veined/seeded


  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil


  • 1 T honey


  • 1T fresh lemon juice


LENTIL ALMOND STIR FRY





  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil


  • 6 to 8 baby potatoes, preferably blue, cut in quarters


  • 1 package of steamed lentils from Trader Joe's


  • 12 brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered


  • Handful of raw almonds, roughly chopped


  • 1/3 c plain Greek yogurt, thinned out with 1 T water, and salted with a pinch of salt


  • 3-4 dates, pitted and chopped




DIRECTIONS



Combine the ingredients for the mint sauce in a food processor and pulse to combine. Be careful not to over process/puree the mixture (texture = good). Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.



Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When you start to smell the olive oil aroma, add the potatoes and cover the skillet. Allow to cook for ~5 minutes (to get nicely browned edges), toss, and cook another 5 minutes. Add the sprouts and allow the edges to get brown and caramelized, tossing as necessarily. Add the lentils to the potatoes-brussels sprout mixture and heat through. When the mixture is nicely heated, add the almonds, toss to combine, and turn out on individual plates.



Drizzle with yogurt and mint sauce and top with chopped dates. Super yummy.

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