Cretan Red Lentils
by Cristiana Sadidigianis·
Cretan Red Lentils
A recipe & note from our friend Andrea Gentl:
"I have had lentils cooked many ways in many different countries, they are one my favorite dishes to cook and eat.
I usually associate split red lentils with India, so when I saw these bubbling away in a large pot on the very busy stove at Dounias Taverna in Crete, I was intrigued.
The dish was served in a shallow painted bowl with a warm hunk of bread, a few warmed olives, and a generous dousing of bright green olive oil.
The lentils were absolutely comforting and mellow and so delicious. I have done my best to re-create a version of them in this recipe. They come together quickly, making them an easy weeknight dinner or a simple holiday side dish."
– Andrea Gentl
1 carrot, peeled and chopped finely
4 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped finely
1 shallot, chopped finely
1 stalk celery, chopped finely
3 tablespoons Oracle Olive Oil plus more for finishing
2 tablespoons salted butter
1 tablespoon smashed coriander seed
A generous pinch of dried Greek oregano
2-3 fresh bay leaves, crushed to release oils
¼ teaspoon fennel pollen, plus more for garnish (optional)
1 ½ cup split red lentils, also called Masoor Dal
1 quart of whole peeled tomatoes or 1 qt of tomato puree
1 quart of water
1 teaspoon salt (I use Maldon, if using a finer salt use 1/2 teaspoon)
1 tablespoon Pine honey (any floral honey will work as well)
½ cup thick Greek Yogurt or Labneh for serving
10-12 small green olives or rinsed salted capers for garnish
Cracked black pepper and sea salt to taste
- In a large Dutch oven, warm the olive oil and garlic over medium-low heat. Add the chopped carrot, garlic, shallot, and celery to the olive oil and butter, and slowly cook the soffrito until soft, about ten minutes.
- Turn the heat down and add the crushed coriander, oregano, bay leaf, and fennel pollen; cook for another 2-3 minutes.
- Add the split red lentils and cook for another minute or two, stirring to coat them and slightly toast them.
- Add the water and pureed tomatoes (canned whole peeled tomatoes are fine as long as you use a stick blender to puree them). Cook over medium heat at a bare simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Add more water if you feel the consistency is getting too thick.
- When the lentils are done, stir in the Pine honey, taste for salt, and add if needed. Cover and let the lentils rest while you prepare the olives or capers.
- If using olives, add a little extra virgin olive oil to a small pot and cook the olives over low heat until just warm, about a minute. If using capers, rinse them ahead of time and pat them dry. Warm a little extra virgin olive oil in a small fry pan. Add the capers and fry over medium low heat until crispy about a minute or two.
- Serve the lentils in large bowls with a spoonful of Greek yogurt, some warmed olives, or fried capers. Top with a bit of cracked black pepper, a pinch of fennel pollen, a little crunchy salt and a generous glug of extra virgin olive oil. Just before serving, squeeze a halved lemon over the served bowl!