A Something from Nothing Sunday, featuring lentils

I had a true something from nothing Sunday morning back in February.  Since both JC and I had been super busy, and it had been freezing in NY,  we hadn't wanted to venture out much. This left us with only a few odd items in the fridge.  We were so low that we didn't even have garlic, which we ALWAYS have.  

The first order of business was to pull everything out and see what I had to work with.  The stars of the day: carrots, fennel, acorn squash, shallots, a tiny bit of cilantro.  In the cupboard, I found basmati rice and French lentils.  Well, I can make stuff with that and thus the cooking off of odds and ends began.

First, I made 3 uncooked cups of basmati rice so I can have an abundant amount to mix with the vegetables, add to soup or just have as a side dish.  I was thinking about having enough to take for lunch during the week.  I also decided to sauté one and half finely chopped shallots in oil and added that to half the cooked rice, plus seasoned with salt, pepper and minced cilantro.  I like adding onions or garlic with some fresh herbs to cooked rice.  It makes rice a better side dish.


Then I sliced the acorn squash, skin on and left the carrots whole with their greens on. I roasted them in a 425 degree oven with some olive oil, salt and pepper until they got nice and caramelized.  I LOVE  LOVE LOVE roasting vegetables.  The high heat just a bit of olive oil brings out all the nature sweetness of any veggie.  

Basmati rice sauteéd with shallots and cilantro

Basmati rice sauteéd with shallots and cilantro

Sweet and earthy - Oven roasted acorn squash and whole carrots

Sweet and earthy - Oven roasted acorn squash and whole carrots

While those were roasting away, I got started on the lentils.  Please note that my style of cooking is without measurements.  I just use what I have and add salt, pepper and spices as I see fit.  However, I realize that not everyone is comfortable with that methodology, especially my sister Jill.  She isn't a big fan of cooking but can follow a recipe and does a great job. Over the years I have had to write down impromptu recipes so that she can replicate them.  With her in mind, I took out my notebook and jotted this down.  But please keep in mind that this recipe is meant to be a true something from nothing.  Meaning, you can use whatever you have in the fridge to make these lentils, and in whatever quantities you have.  I just used up what I had but measured it for ease of repeating.

French Lentils with carrots & fennel



3 T olive oil
2 c chopped red onion
2.5 c chopped carrot
1 c chopped fennel
2 tsp salt
1/2 t crushed pepper
1 t tumeric
2.5 c French lentils
4 c vegetable or chicken stock  
(if you don't have any stock, use all water)


Put all the oil in a deep pan and sauté the onion, carrot, fennel, salt, pepper and tumeric until slightly softened.  Do not overcook these as they will continue to cook with the lentils.  Add the lentils and the liquid and bring to a boil for 2-3 minutes.  Lower the heat and let cook until most of the liquid is absorbed.    You can cook these to your liking.   If you want to use them to add to a salad, then I would leave them al dente.  If you want to puree this mixture to make a thick soup, I would cook the lentils longer until very tender.

Lentils cooking away

Lentils cooking away

I left mine on the al dente rice because I like the bite of them.  I also used them for the week's lunch.  
Monday:  room temp lentils over mixed greens with a side of roasted carrots/acorn squash
Tuesday:  warm lentils in vegetable broth & basmati rice
Wednesday:   Quinoa pasta with lentils and feta cheese

That exhausted the batch of lentils I made, and gave me a three yummy, hearty lunches for the frigid NY winter days, plus there was enough for Jill and JC too.  Remember, the something from nothing rule: there are no rules. Use what you have. Any vegetable and in any quantity will work.