This is another elemental stew that makes a hearty lunch on a rainy day. Serve it in large bowls with a salad of bitter greens in light vinaigrette. Lentils are drought resistant, which make them a good crop for hot summers with sparse rainfall which we often experience here in the Upper Midwest. Our lentils, which come in various colors, sizes and flavor profiles, are from Chieftain Wild Rice Company in Spooner, Wisconsin. Because they are a pulse, or a grain legume, they lend themselves well to crop rotation since they actively fix nitrogen to the soil during the growing season. Consequently, lentils are one cover crop that can also be harvested for profit by regional farmers.
This recipe is courtesy of Heartland: Farm-Forward Dishes from the Great Midwest cookbook by Lenny Russo and Burgess Lea Press.
- 2 Cups lentils, rinsed and checked for stones
- 1 smoked pork hock or ham bone, or 1/4 pound diced smoked bacon
- 1 small yellow onion, peeled and studded with cloves
- 1 medium carrot, peeled
- Bouquet garni (2 parsley sprigs, 2 thyme sprigs, 1 bay leaf, 2 garlic cloves, 10 black peppercorns)
- 1 Teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 Teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Virgin sunflower oil, for drizzling
Combine the lentils in a large pot with 4 cups of cold water. Add the pork hock, onion, carrot and bouquet garni. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and gently cook until the lentils are tender but still firm, about 30 minutes.
Partially drain the lentils, leaving enough broth to keep them moist. Remove the pork hock, vegetables and bouquet garni. Pull the meat from the pork hock and return it to the lentils. Adjust the seasoning with the salt and pepper. Serve immediately with a drizzle of virgin sunflower oil or extra virgin olive oil.