A Flavorful Duality

With the onset of Fall, we find ourselves turning towards heartier fare in anticipation of the colder weather: filling stews, creamy soups, baked pastas, etc. Many assume that winter meals translate into fatty, less-healthy options than the summer’s alternatives. Thanksgiving (just around the corner) does very little to diminish these concerns. Nonetheless, there are plenty of healthy options that provide a cozy complement to the colder nights. This dish is certainly one of them, and is surprisingly flavorful! I doubled the recipe knowing that I would be serving a crowd, and there still ended up being tons of leftovers! For a healthier way to warm up and still feel sated, look no farther than this amazing French Lentil Salad.
The internet is addicting – we all know this. Yet the more inundated we become with information and options, I find the old-fashioned method for recipe searches to be far more satisfying – good old cookbooks. I have WAY too many (a point I’ve made countless times on this blog) and should use them more than I actually do. Thank God I decided to for this recipe – Dorie Greenspan, once again, proves her genius in this dish. Lentils are a tough ingredient, given they can easily become too mushy or lack complexity. These lentils were perfectly tender and extraordinarily complex. It was the first time I’ve cooked with black lentils (she calls for French green lentils, but these are an apt substitute) and I have officially fallen in love with their earthy taste.
I credit the complexity in this dish to the cognac. You can use any brand, but I wanted the novelty of actually owning a bottle of Courvoisier – a drink that had become an outdated luxury until P.  Diddy released that hit single to bring it back into the limelight (this doesn’t necessarily mean I like the song, but it was the first time I heard about the drink). Adding the cognac is optional, but brings a bit of edge to the dish that is difficult to achieve in meatless entrees. Whether or not you choose to go with a pricier brandy is irrelevant, the result should be the same.
This is the first stew I’ve made where the vegetables are boiled whole, then chopped after the dish is done. I was apprehensive about not having the “caramelized” taste, but ended up being extremely pleased with the result. Including the vegetables (after chopping them) is optional, which I chose to do for added color and texture. That being said, those onions were NOT easy to cut – the outside skin becomes very slippery, so please be careful if you choose to include them. I also chose to include the vinaigrette Dorie recommends. The lentils are excellent on their own, but this dressing paired beautifully. This salad will probably become a go-to of mine for those colder nights, and perhaps paired with a short glass of Courvoisier. Click HERE to learn more about this filling yet healthy entree.
This dish was somewhat dichotomous, exhibiting both robust and subtle flavors – this brought to mind the music of Robert Schumann. His style was driven by dualities, ranging from intense passion to thoughtful tenderness. I chose his Piano Concerto in A minor, Op.54 to reflect on this eclectic style. Originally intended to be a Phantasie for piano and orchestra, Schumann’s wife Clara encouraged him to expand the work into an entire concerto. She was deeply moved (as were most listeners) by the integration of the solo line within the orchestral context. It is one of his more famous works, and the only piano concerto he ever completed. The following recording is with pianist Arthur Rubinstein – enjoy!


Sources Cited:
“SCHUMANN: Concerto in A minor for Piano and Orchestra, Opus 54,” San Francisco Symphony

2 thoughts on “A Flavorful Duality

  1. I love French lentils, though I admit that I’m also a little leery of chopping the vegetables after boiling them. I assume that boiling the vegetables whole keeps them from breaking down totally to mush and creates a simple stock to cook the lentils in. But chopping them once they’re squishy? That’s brave 🙂

    • The nice thing is they aren’t necessarily “mushy,” but I do admit it is a unique approach (the onions are a little tricky…) They’re an “optional” add-in, so it can certainly be omitted if you wish.

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