Many cooks, both home and professional alike, have for several years embraced the philosophy of eating foods locally grown as often as possible, and cooking seasonally with fresh ingredients as they appear naturally and not shipped halfway around the world to a giant supermarket. Those focuses are easier to follow with the pending return of our local farmer’s markets and CSA boxes that we subscribe to.
We have enjoyed the plethora of global cuisines and perhaps dabbled in “fusion” cooking, where mutli-cultural influences blend to form an inspired menu.
But maybe we don’t want or have time to prepare an entire Thai or Mexican or Indian menu, and are looking for a little inspiration to put a new flavor dimension into a family favorite recipe or when we tackle that weekly CSA box.
Thinking outside the box (quite literally) can yield some new perspectives while we cook. Using just one ingredient that is indigenous to an ethnic cuisine can sometimes singlehandedly give a new dimension and depth to a recipe; a sprinkle of ground cardamom on roasted sweet potatoes, a teaspoon of Chinese chili paste in some braised lentils, curry powder added to your butternut squash soup, a few roasted, peeled and diced poblano chiles folded into your mashed potatoes.
Your kitchen may have four walls but they are not borders. Explore the world of flavor with your creativity and some ingredients you already have on hand.
- 1 ½ cups French green lentils, picked over and rinsed
- 3 T. olive oil
- 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
- 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
- 2 stalks celery, trimmed and chopped
- 3 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- 1 t. dried thyme
- 2 T. Worcestershire sauce
- ½ to 1 t. Chinese chili paste
- ½ to ¾ cup chicken broth
- freshly ground black pepper
- 3 T. chopped fresh parsley
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Place the lentils in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Place over moderate heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the lentils for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
- Meanwhile, in a large casserole warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot and celery. Sauté until soft but not brown, about 10 minutes.
- Add the lentils and their cooking liquid, the garlic, thyme, Worcestershire sauce and chili paste. Stir in enough chicken broth to cover the lentils. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper and mix well.
- Cover the casserole and bake until the lentils are just tender, about 30 minutes.
- Stir in the chopped parsley. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.