Sunday, May 29, 2011

Ginger Sage Pasta with Red Lentils, Spinach and Carrots

Don't be put off by the lentils or the spinach. This is a delicious, rich pasta that everyone in my family likes -- meat-eaters and vegie-heads alike. My Susan knows that eating high on the food chain is bad business for the planet (blah blah blah) so she tries to cook vegetarian most of the time. I will admit, great food like this makes it easy to be an herbivore. OK, the amount butter means you aren't just eating herbs... but the butter is a big part of what makes this dish lusciously divine.

Vegetarian PlanetNote: picky eaters like Boy#2 can sort out the spinach easily enough, as the dark green stands out very nicely.

This recipe is adapted from Didi Emmons' fabulous Vegetarian Planet which is the best darn vegetarian cookbook we have on our shelves. Didi calls it Pasta with Baby Red Lentils and Ginger and it is delicious just as it is -- with a full 8 tablespoons of butter. But Susan's mom instincts make her crank up the vegetables and dial back the butter (sigh). I say make it full-fat and head to the dog park. You decide...

Ginger Sage Pasta with Red Lentils, Spinach and Carrots

1 pound pasta (penne, farfalle, campanelle...)
4 Tablespoon butter (originally 8T... you also could add back some fat as olive oil, for a silkier dish)
3-5 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 to 2-inch piece fresh ginger, cut into thin julienne strips
3/4 tsp. dried sage or 1 T minced fresh sage 
1 cup red lentils, rinsed well
1 1/4 cup water (you may have to add more, depending on evaporation)
3 cups fresh baby spinach, firmly packed
1/2 cup or more carrots, cut into thin julienne strips
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt, to taste
fresh ground pepper, to taste

Red lentils are tasty and not too mealy like some lentils ones can be. Be sure that you rinse them well. Put them in a strainer  and keep submerging them in a large bowl of water until the water is clear, removing any floating debris. Susan says that when you cook red lentils, they will change color to a more yellow-tan color (red is not a color I have an opinion about, being a dog).

Boil water for pasta. Follow pasta's cooking directions. After you drain the pasta, you can add a splash of olive oil and toss together to keep it from sticking together while you finish the rest of the recipe.

While pasta cooks, melt butter in a large sauce pan or skillet over medium heat. When butter turns golden brown, add the garlic, ginger and carrots. Cook for one minute, stirring. Add sage, lentils, and water. Bring to a boil, cover pan and reduce to low heat.

Let the lentils simmer for 10 minutes or until tender but still chewy (they will turn to mush if you cook them too long). If larger lentils are used, you may need more time and more water.

Stir the spinach and salt into the lentils, and increase the heat. Stir gently until the spinach wilts (about a minute). Add cooked pasta and pepper to taste. Heat the mixture as needed.

Serve with crispy, green salad -- the kind rabbits like -- to contrast the richness of the pasta.

For easy, eco-friendly clean-up, let the dog help you with those pans.

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