Mushroom and Broccoli Lentils
This might not look all that exciting, but assure you, it was. It was very exciting. And do you know what makes a big bowl of lentils exciting? Well, I’ll tell you: It’s Worcestershire sauce and aged farmhouse cheddar. These two simple ingredients make a big bowl of lentils positively mind-blowing. When I cooked up this little dinner I didn’t think much of it. I certainly didn’t think it would be worth sharing here. This was a simple weeknight dinner, to be consumed while catching up with my DVR or reading some dorky librarian’s magazine. But then I tasted it and knew it deserved so much better than that.
I came fairly late to the lentil party. We definitely didn’t eat a lot of lentils when I was growing up, and they always seemed kind of mushy and uninteresting to me. Soup seemed to be the only place they had any right to be, but if you’ve read through this site at all you will have realized that I fell hard for lentils a few years ago. At first my affection was reserved for those lentils that retain their perfect, unadulterated form after cooking, like French Puy lentils, or the Umbrian lentils I used here (and purchased at Berkeley Bowl when I was in the Bay Area two weeks ago; can I digress and say how much I LOVE Berkeley Bowl?). But after awhile, I came to love all lentils, even the mushy ones. And I thought I’d pretty much figured out what there was to do with lentils, but whoa. This opened up a whole new door for me.
It doesn’t seem all that significant, but the combination of Worcestershire sauce, which has been my go-to lentil addition for a few months now, with some pungent traditional farmhouse cheddar cheese (from Trader Joe’s) was outstanding. The cheese added depth and the Worcestershire sauce added tanginess, and paired with earthy mushrooms and lentils, sweet carrots, and crunchy broccoli…well, let’s just say my love of lentils grew even deeper and more enduring.
Mushroom and Broccoli Lentils
- 1 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1/2 a small onion
- 2 medium carrots, chopped
- 1/2 cup lentils (Puy or Umbrian will probably work best)
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock or water, divided
- 1-2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- about 1 1/2 cups chopped mushrooms
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- about 1 1/2 cups chopped broccoli
- about 1/3 cup grated Cheddar (choose one with a rich, strong flavor, aged or English or something)
This is my standard lentil preparation and really goes well with almost everything: Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until it begins to soften. Stir in the carrots, then the lentils, then add a cup of the stock or water, the salt, and Worcestershire sauce. Cover the pan, let the mixture come a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the carrots and lentils are cooked through, about 20 to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the mushrooms. Heat the remaining olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, spread them into a single layer in the pan, and let them cook, untouched, for a few minutes. Give them a little stir, add some salt, then spread them out again and cook for another few minutes. Once the mushrooms have begun to brown and soften, add the remaining half cup of stock or water and let the mushrooms continue to cook until the liquid has mostly been absorbed and cooked down.
When the lentils are nearly done, add the broccoli to the saucepan. You can just throw them on top of the lentils and re-cover the pan and they will steam. Once the broccoli is cooked and the lentils are done, add the mixture to the pan with the mushrooms. Stir well, then stir in the cheese until it’s melted through, stirring constantly so it has a chance of being evenly mixed in.
Yes, this one is truly spectacular, and proves to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that a) I can never be vegan, because b) cheese makes everything taste better. I can’t emphasize enough, though, that you want to use a really good Cheddar. It just won’t be as special with the lackluster yellow stuff from the supermarket. Head straight to the specialty cheese section and pick out something extra good; you won’t regret it. The Trader Joe’s cheese I used, a gift from a friend in Portland, gives me yet another reason to petition the TJ’s people to open a store here in Walla Walla. Please, pretty please? I’ll even take a store in the Tri-cities! I miss Trader Joe’s.
Whether or not your town is blessed with Trader Joe’s, you should try these lentils. Another meal proving to me that food can be both healthy and delicious!