Not Just For Lent Lentils February 23, 2010Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking, Food, random stuff.
I don’t get Lent. Now I don’t say that to disparage anyone’s religious observance or anything – I just don’t get it. I mean, I was the granddaughter of a very Protestant not just minister but seminary professor. Basically, Midwestern Swedes don’t do Lent, and the neighborhood where I grew up was nothing but Swedes.
I just don’t understand it, that’s all. My entire understanding of Lent is that you “give up” something for the weeks preceding Easter, and usually, what you give up is meat. Meat, mind you! (That, and somehow, Fridays are involved. I have no idea what that’s all about. )
Anyway. Several years ago, our local newspaper used to have a column called the “Ask-it Basket” – people used to write in and ask for recipes, often from defunct local restaurants, and other people would provide them. So apparently, someone was looking for the recipe for “Lentil Loaf” that was served at “The Regular Restaurant” – and a former employee from the 1970s provided it, and I thought it sounded interesting enough to cut it out and, um, shove it in a drawer and forget about it.
Yeah. When I started my “I have GOT to get organized” mission last fall, one of my self-imposed tasks was to sort recipes – which I spent a couple of weekends doing. And I found that newspaper clipping, and we eventually tried it, and we liked it. A lot. I made a notation in the margin that it was “surprisingly excellent” – that’s how much we liked it! (Of course, the fact that it’s got a healthy hunk of cheddar cheese has nothing to do with it!)
We start by shredding a bunch of cheddar – about half a pound, and pre-cooking a cup or so of lentils. You know, I never really had lentils growing up – I had to look up how to cook them (boil them in salted water for 20-25 minutes, then drain)!
While the lentils were cooking, I measured out about ½ teaspoon each of salt and pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon of dried thyme. I think, next time, I’m going to try using, maybe, ½ teaspoon of my Tuscan herb blend – just to mix things up a bit.
Oh, and don’t forget to preheat your oven to 350°.
So in a good-sized mixing bowl, stir together about 1 cup of cheddar, one small-ish chopped onion, 3/4 cup of bread crumbs, and the salt-pepper-herb mix.
By the time you’re done, the lentils should be about done and ready to drain.
Dump them into the mixing bowl with the bread crumb-cheese mixture and stir. Then add a pat of softened butter – about 1 Tablespoon – and an egg. (You know you’ve gotta be kind of careful about the egg – give the lentils a bit of a chance to cool down before adding it, otherwise you’ll have lentil-scrambled egg loaf, and, well, eew.)
Pat the mixture into a greased loaf pan, and sprinkle the remaining cup of cheese over the top.
Hey, we Midwestern Swedes love our cheese, you know!
You’re basically treating this lentil loaf like a meat loaf – only, you know, with no meat.
So bake the uncovered loaf for 30-40 minutes, depending on how much you let the lentils cool – basically, what you want is to be sure the eggs are cooked through and everything has a chance to melt and stick together. Basically.
So here’s the thing – it’s good. It’s like a vegetarian version of meatloaf, and I’m sure the possibilities for variation are practically endless – change up the herbs, switch cheeses, maybe the addition of some more veggies. OK, maybe not endless. But it doesn’t matter, really, because this is darned good the way it is.
Plus we served it with some brown rice and a tossed salad, so I am WAY on the plus side for Healthy Food Karma now! (Heh. I just made that up.)
Anyway, here’s the recipe, if you’d like to try it yourself.