Friday, December 10, 2010
Homey and Hearty Lentil Casserole
Winter has definitely arrived. Never mind this waiting for December 21 when it becomes official. It's here. My many layers of clothing, silly-looking but warm hat and puffy man jacket already make it official. And although I love winter, and snow hikes and blustery days spent inside baking and winter walks during those deceptively chilly but sunny days, I have to admit that I don't like the cold. It seeps into my bones and plants a chill that is so hard to get rid of that I feel like either staying under a hot shower for hours or putting on three sweaters and never leaving the house. A colleague at work this week mentioned that for the holidays, he was taking his family to visit friends north of Thunder Bay, where they would go ice fishing, soak in a hot tub and then roll around in the snow in an "authentic Canadian tradition." (I won't even GO there with how loaded those words are!) I was cold for the whole morning thinking about this. Some Canadian, eh?
So how do I take away the cold? Coffee helps. Lots of coffee and tea in never-ending quantities and merino wool socks on my feet ... and a nice, homey, hearty and healthy meal, like this lentil and walnut casserole. We got the idea to make this dish when we saw it on a menu at a restaurant. Although we didn't order it, it stayed in our minds and we had to try to create it in our kitchen. I can't say enough good things about this casserole. It's definitely flavourful and tasty -- my Mom even thought there was meat in it! And it's completely vegetarian, very healthy and the perfect meal to cook and enjoy on a cold winter day. It's creamy without cream, filling but not heavy and has just enough spark from the dried and fresh herbs to take comfort food to a new level. It does take some time prepare and will take up several pots and pans in the kitchen, but if you've got a whole afternoon of warming up to do like we did, it shouldn't be a problem. Just put your favourite CD on, pour yourself another cup of tea, and dive into this recipe.
Lentil Walnut Casserole
adapted from Food.com
3/4 cup of dried red lentil, rinsed thoroughly
1.5 cups of vegetable broth
1/2 a sweet onion, diced finely
1 garlic clove, minced
a handful of chopped cremini mushrooms
1/4 cup of chopped walnuts
1/4 cup of oats
1 teaspoon of honey mustard
a splash each of Worcestershire sauce and dark soy
1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano
2 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed (or use 1/2 teaspoon of dried)
1 teaspoon of chopped fresh sage (or used 1/2 teaspoon of dried)
salt and pepper
1/4 cup of grated mozzarella cheese
1. Cook the lentils in the vegetable broth for about 15-20 minutes, or until all the liquid is gone and the lentils are tender but have not yet disintegrated. Set aside.
2. In a skillet over medium heat, cook the mushrooms in a splash of olive oil until they start to get nice and brown. Remove from heat and let cool.
3. In a large bowl, combine the lentils and mushrooms with the rest of the ingredients except the cheese, and give it a nice big stir. Pour this mixture into a baking dish and sprinkle the cheese on top.
4. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes, then turn on the broiler and bake for another 5 minutes, or until the cheese gets brown and bubbly.
5. Remove from the oven and serve with a green salad or steamed vegetables.