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Verbena's Red Lentil Spread

1/2 yellow onion
4 whole cloves
1/2 small head of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
1 stalk celery
1 carrot
2 bay leaves
3/4 C. extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus additional for serving
1 T. salt, plus additional for seasoning
1/2 C. red lentils, picked over for stones
1 t. freshly ground coriander seed
1 t. freshly ground fennel seed
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper

Stick whole cloves in the onion, then place it, the garlic, celery, carrot, bay leaves, 1/4 cup of the olive oil and salt in a medium-size pot together with 3 cups of water. Bring to a simmer; cook for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, wash the lentils in several changes of cold water until the water is clear. Soak lentils in fresh cold water for 30 minutes. Drain and add to the pot.

Toast the coriander and fennel in a dry pan a few minutes until fragrant, then add them, together with the red pepper flakes and black pepper, to the vegetable bouillon. Simmer until lentils are tender, 20 to 30 minutes.

Remove bouillon from heat; bring to room temperature. Discard onion, celery, carrot and bay leaves. Stir in the remaining half cup of oil and adjust seasonings. Place spread in a serving bowl, and cover with a thin layer of extra-virgin olive oil. Serve at room temperature.

Leftover spread can be refrigerated up to one week.

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