Not unlike the trajectory of an obstinate, dawdling toddler who needs to be coaxed out of every puddle on the endless walk home, springtime's arrival seems to be stalled by intermittent stormy tantrums. Still there are signs of progress, such as the longer evenings and the increasing diversity of fresh green offerings through Eugene Local Foods. These signs inspired me to turn to the Spring section of Elin England's treasure trove of seasonal recipes in Eating Close to Home: A Guide to Local Seasonal Sustenance in the Pacific Northwest. Here I discovered her lentils with butter and parsley, which make an especially bright and refreshing springtime dish.
The recipe has you simmer lentils with garlic cloves, a bay leaf, and parsley stems, reserving the leaves for a parsley butter to mix in at the end, along with a dash of lemon juice. As opposed to deliciously enveloping lentils in rendered bacon fat, this gentle tossing with uncooked butter lets the legumes' distinctive flavor shine. I first made this dish with red chief lentils from Camas Country Mill, which made a soft and tangy accompaniment to seared salmon.
The next time I used Camas Country Mill's small brown lentils, similar to French or puy lentils. They gave a nice texture and heft to an after-Easter salad with hard boiled eggs and strips of ham on top and a bed of garlicy sauteed mixed greens from Sweetwater Farm below. These little legumes provide the heart of a satisfying meal and the satisfaction of supporting a local solution to feeding our community through partnerships between local growers and Food for Lane County.
Lentils with Butter and Parsley
slightly adapted from Eating Close to Home by Elin England
1 cup (~1/2 lb) lentils rinsed and drained
1 large bay leaf
1 small bunch of parsley stems, tied together
3 large garlic cloves, pealed and cut in half
2 Tbsp butter, softened
juice and zest from 1 small or 1/2 large lemon
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley leaves
salt and pepper to taste
1. Place the lentils in a pan with with 4 cups water, the bay leaf, parsley stems, garlic, and a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and then simmer on medium low heat until the lentils are tender but not falling apart, about 20 minutes. Discard the bay leaf, parsley stem bunch, and garlic, and drain the lentils or transfer them to a bowl with a slotted spoon.
2. Meanwhile, prepare the parsley butter. You could use a small food processor to mix together the parsley leaves, lemon zest and juice, and butter, or do this by hand in a bowl, first snipping the parsley finely with kitchen shears.
3. When the lentils are done, mix in the parsley butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.