It is said that lentils are symbolic of money. Once cooked, the round “seeds” swell a little and resemble coins. When you think about what ancient Roman coins look like—irregularly round and brown in color, the commonality between lentils and good fortune makes a lot more sense. In Italy, most families ring in the new year with some sort of lentil dish, wishing for good fortune in wealth and in happiness.
Although often cooked with sausages or as thickening in a hearty fall soup, I was hoping to find a lentil recipe that wouldn’t be too heavy, especially during the 90+ degree August evenings we’d been having! I knew I’d find the perfect recipe in one of Yotam Ottolenghi cookbooks…he’s one of my all time favorite chefs! And there it was in his cookbook titled “Plenty”!
With just a few ingredients and a simple dressing he’s created Castelluccio Lentils with Gorgonzola and Tomatoes. It’s such a delicious dish with lentils as the main attraction; just what you need during the final days of summer! You can add a bit of cooked chicken to make it a main course, or enjoy as a vegetarian main course…filling and fulfilling! Leftovers…even better (if there are any!).
Enjoy this unique and flavorful salad on your table during all seasons…Winter, spring, summer or fall. When the months are warmer, you’ll appreciate the tangy flavors of the roasted tomatoes lightening up the salad. During cooler days the time in the oven brings the sweetness and robust flavors to this hearty salad.
Add this dish to any occasion…may it bring to you good fortune all life long!
Preheat the oven to 275ºF.
Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
Cut the tomatoes in quarters and place on prepared baking sheet, skin side down.
Keeping the thyme sprigs intact, place on top of quartered tomatoes and drizzle evenly with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with sea salt.
Roast tomatoes until they appear dry to the touch. About 1-1/2 hours.
Discard thyme and cool to room temperature.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine red onion and vinegar. Sprinkle with the sea salt and let sit until onion softens, about 5 minutes.
In a separate kettle, boil water, enough to fill a large skillet.
Place lentils in a large skillet. Add enough of the boiling water to come to about 1″ above the lentils.
Cook until tender but not mushy, about 20-30 minutes.
Drain well in a colander or mesh sieve. Shake off all visible moisture. Transfer to a separate bowl.
While the lentils are still warm, add red onion, olive oil, the garlic and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Stir gently, avoiding mashing any lentils. Let sit to cool to room temperature.
Once lentil mixture is cool, add the herbs and combine. Adjust seasonings if necessary.
Create a mound of lentils on a large platter or shallow bowl, integrating the cheese and tomatoes as you go.
Drizzle the cooking juices from tomatoes pan over the top and serve.
Be sure to use good quality lentils. The basic green ones in the bag on the bean and rice aisle cook to a soft “mush.” The Castelluccio lentils (or beluga lentils) keep their perfect shape even when tender.
This recipe can be prepared up to 3 hours ahead of time through step 8 of the lentil instructions above. The components can be left, covered, at room temperature. When ready to serve, proceed with serving instructions.
Recipe from Plenty, A cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi