French Lentils with Sautéed Mushrooms and Roasted Vegetables

This recipe was adapted from Clean Start by Terry Walters. Here’s a great opportunity to clear out the fridge, as nearly any winter root (or squash) will work wonderfully.  French green lentils are smaller and darker than brown ones.  They hold their shape in cooking, so are better for salads and pilafs.  You’ll find them at Whole Foods and many grocery stores.

Serves 6


  • 3 cups peeled and cubed (3/4 inch) mixed roots or winter squash (such as carrot, parsnip, turnip, rutabaga, celery root, potato or butternut squash)
  • 1 large onion peeled and cut into ½ inch wedges
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • ¾ cup dry French green lentils
  • 3 cups vegetable stock or water
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice (plus more)
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 4 cups thinly sliced mushrooms
  • 1 Tablespoon white wine or sherry
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh parsley leaves


  1. Preheat oven to 400 ° F.  Toss roots with olive oil to coat.  Place on a baking sheet.  Toss onion with olive oil to coat and place on a separate baking sheet.  Roast both until tender (onions will take about 25 minutes, roots about 35).  Turn once or twice during cooking.
  2. While vegetables are roasting, place lentils in a saucepan with water/stock and a pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and cover.  Simmer until tender (about 20 minutes).  Drain well.  Toss with one Tablespoon olive oil and one Tablespoon lemon juice.
  3. In a large skillet, heat butter with one Tablespoon olive oil.  Sauté mushrooms until they’ve reduced in size and browned in many spots.  Add sherry and one Tablespoon lemon juice.  Add thyme and cook until liquid is mostly absorbed.   Fold in lentils and roasted vegetables (with any caramelized pan drippings).  Heat through.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Toss with parsley and add more lemon juice or olive oil as needed for taste.

Indian Yellow Lentils (Dal) with Greens

This is the Indian version of comfort food and a more nutritious and inexpensive dish is difficult to find. Serve with yogurt raita and rice for a complete meal.  You’ll find yellow mung dal at any Indian grocery and some high end specialty markets.  It’s important to pick over the dal before cooking to make sure there are no bits of grit or debris. This variety of dal is particularly mild and digestible.

The lentils are first cooked with water to create a soupy broth.  They are seasoned with a separately sautéed topping of spices before serving, called tarka.  In this case the tarka topping includes onions, tomatoes and leafy greens as well as spices.

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Lentil and Pinto Bean Chili

Lentil and Pinto Bean Chili

This dish draws inspiration from many sources—vegetarian chilis in Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins, The Silver Palate Goodtimes Cookbook and Didi Emmon’s, Vegetarian Planet.  And there’s the Indian lentil stews I’ve learned to love over many years of marriage, like dal makhani which pairs lentils with kidney beans.  We’ve been experimenting and doctoring over years, each time we stir up this chili, we tweak it a bit, here and there.  The first version began with sautéed eggplant courtesy of the Silver Palate.  Years later, lentils and beer were added via Emmon’s suggestion, and somewhere along the line the spices that go into dal were stirred in.  If we have zucchini in the garden, we add it (toward the end of cooking).  Or carrots and celery.  Fennel even.  The beans we choose depend on what’s in the cupboard—cannellini, black, kidney and garbanzo are all able partners.

Though this chili is simple to prepare and can be on the table in an hour or so, it’s even better after a day or three, which allows the flavors to mingle, mellow and come together.

I like to grind my own spices—a trick I learned from my mentor in Indian cooking, my mother-in-law—since the flavor is far superior.  There’s a small coffee bean grinder stored in my cupboard, reserved just for spices.  Buy bags of cumin and coriander seed at an Indian market in bulk—the cheapest prices you’ll find anywhere.

We love Spanish pardina lentils here—they keep their shape as they cook, and have a lovely light brown hue—but substitute any earth-colored lentil.  French green lentils, lentilles du Puy, would be nice too. If you make a substitution, be sure to test the lentils for doneness, as each variety cooks at a different rate.  You may need to add more water too, depending on the variety.

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Mung Bean Pancakes with Summer Squash

This dish is comfort food in our family – made by my mother-in-law and recreated in our own way at home.  We enjoy these pancakes for a simple supper meal with tomato, cilantro or coconut chutney and yogurt raita.  You could add a chopped vegetable salad (tomato, radish and cucumber would be traditional) on the side if you like.  To find the split yellow mung beans (moong dal) you’ll need to make a trip to the local Indian grocery – worth the drive if you haven’t already checked it out.  Pick up some bulk spices while you’re there – as cheap as you’ll find anywhere.

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