Braised Lentils, Spanish Style

MAKES: 4 servings

TIME: 45 minutes

Earthy and slightly smoky (use Spanish pimentіn, the wonderful smoky paprika). Make it saucy but not soupy you want enough liquid to sop up with crusty bread. Add a salad and you have a good, simple meal.

Double the recipe if you like, because the leftovers will keep in the fridge for a couple of days and reheat perfectly for lunch or a super-quick dinner.

Other beans you can use: Earthy-flavored legumes work best, Le Puy or black Beluga lentils if you can find them.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 onion, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads (optional)

1 tablespoon smoked Spanish paprika (pimentГіn)

1 bay leaf

1/2 cup dry red wine

2 cups vegetable stock or water, or more as needed

1 cup dried brown lentils, washed and picked over

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Chopped parsley for garnish

Put the oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion, celery, and carrot; cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic, saffron, and paprika and cook for another minute.

Add the bay leaf, wine, stock, and lentils. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium-low so that the mixture bubbles gently, cover partially, and cook, stirring occasionally and adding stock or water if necessary to keep the lentils from sticking and burning, until the lentils are tender, 25 to 30 minutes. The lentils should be saucy but not soupy. Taste and adjust the seasoning, sprinkle with parsley, and serve or store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Variations

Braised Lentils, Moroccan Style. A more heavily spiced dish: Double the onion and omit the celery, carrot, paprika, and wine. Add 1 teaspoon each ground turmeric, cinnamon, and ground cumin. Replace 1 cup of the stock with 11/2 cups chopped ripe tomato with their juices. Proceed with the recipe and garnish with chopped cilantro leaves.

Braised Lentils, Ethiopian Style. Loads of spices and a bit of heat: Omit the celery, carrot, saffron, and bay leaf. Add 1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger and 1/2 teaspoon each ground allspice, fenugreek, coriander, cardamom, and cayenne. Replace the Spanish paprika with 2 tablespoons sweet paprika.

Braised Lentils with Roasted Winter Squash. The caramelized roasted squash adds depth: Add any medium winter squash, like acorn, butternut, kabocha, or turban, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1- to 2-inch cubes (about 2 cups); toss it in olive oil to coat and roast it in a 375В°F oven on a baking sheet until tender and caramelized (see Winter Squash Slices, Roasted for more details on roasting squash). Eliminate the saffron and paprika and use white wine instead of red. Proceed with the recipe; add the squash to the lentils in the last 10 minutes or so of cooking.

Braised Lentils with Celery. The clean flavor of the celery pairs nicely with the earthiness of the lentils. Or use 1/2 cup chopped lovage stems and leaves: Double or triple the amount of celery and eliminate the carrot, garlic, saffron, and paprika. Use white wine instead of red and add a teaspoon of grated orange zest.

Braised Lentils with Parsnips. A great fall or winter dish; add a bit of cream for extra richness: Replace the carrot with about a cup of peeled and chopped parsnip and eliminate the garlic, saffron, and paprika. Use 1/4 cup dry (fino) sherry instead of the red wine. Proceed with the recipe, sprinkling with nutmeg just before serving.