The humble lentil comes into its own in this simple, earthy dish flavored with gently sautéd onions, ground spices and fresh herbs. Lentils prepared in this way can be served as a flavor-packed side dish with meat, poultry or fish, or as part of a vegetarian meal. I served the dish recently with grilled guinea hen with walnut sauce, with a spinach salad alongside, and my guests were very happy. The full meal, with recipes, is described below.
Lentilles épicées aux oignons / Spicy lentils with onions
Lentils have been part of the Mediterranean diet since prehistoric times, when farming was first getting started. That dates back about 12,000 years… The variety used most often in French cuisine is the small green lentil, raised on the volcanic soil of the Auvergne region. Blonde lentils, used in today’s recipe, fell out of favor in France for a time but are now being grown again and are making their way onto the menus of celebrated chefs.
I discovered this dish via a Paris friend who enjoys Mediterranean/Middle Eastern flavors and often serves it alongside rich stews. Spicy lentils go equally well with roasted or grilled meat or poultry, and with fish prepared in any style. And this nutrient-packed dish is perfect for vegetarians and vegans. It could be served in this season, for example, with rosemary potatoes, sweet potato purée, wild rice and a beet and walnut salad.
If you’d like to replicate the meal I served my guests, we started with smoked salmon and a mushroom salad with cream and herbs. A version of the main course described above, using chicken instead of guinea fowl, can be found here. The salad combined baby spinach leaves with a balsamic vinaigrette and a finely-chopped clove of garlic. The lentils completed the plate. We followed up with an assortment of cheeses and some fresh figs.