Wednesday, February 20, 2013

warm lentil and pancetta salad

Recently a friend asked me for ideas on lunches to pack for work. I confessed that besides a tub of hummus and bag of baby carrots (*snore*), I do not plan for work lunches beyond just bringing leftovers.

This got me thinking about leftovers and how some work better for office microwave reheating than others (soup- yes, salmon- no). The dish below is one that works very well. To me, it fits two work week requirements- all ingredients can be purchased at the grocery store to be assembled for a quick supper and allows for leftovers for a good, somewhat virtuous, lunch the next day. It is also darn yummy- nutty lentils, sweet carrots, woodsy mushrooms, bitter chard, and salty pancetta. I find it kind of addicting.

This whole recipe hinges on a package of pre-cooked vacuum-sealed lentils. Trader Joe's sells this in the refrigerated vegetable section. It is a great short cut for quick meals.

And really, recipe is a bit of a grand description. It is as simple as crisping up pancetta (also sold pre-cut in a nice Trader Joe's package) sautéing veggies, and then adding the lentils to heat through. As in this recipe, the red wine vinegar is what makes it all sparkle.

I think this is a good starting point for lots of variations. I would love to hear yours!

warm lentil and pancetta salad

1 pckg. cooked lentils
4 oz. pancetta, small diced (can substitute bacon)
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1/2 cup medium diced carrot
4 oz. sliced cremini mushrooms
1/2- 1 cup chicken stock
2 handfuls swiss chard
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1) In a large heavy bottom skillet, over medium heat, sauté pancetta until crisp. Remove pan from heat. With a slotted spoon, remove pancetta to drain on paper-towel lined plate. Set aside.

2) Return pan to heat, add shallot and carrots. Cook until carrots are just starting to get tender-crisp and take care that the shallots do not burn. Add the mushrooms, stirring up any bits on the bottom and coating all in the lovely rendered pancetta fat. Cook over medium heat until the carrots soften and mushrooms cook down a bit. Stir occasionally. If pan gets too dry, add 1/2 cup chicken stock to deglaze.

3) Add 2 handfuls of swiss-chard and, if you haven't already, add 1/2 chicken stock. Cook until chard wilts down (this only takes a couple of minutes.)

4) Stir in the package of cooked lentils, incorporating into the vegetable mixture. Add more chicken stock if needed. Cook until lentils are heated through.

5) Remove from heat, stir in 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar (or more to taste.) Add the crispy pancetta bits and serve immediately.

Note: Because of the nice saltiness of the pancetta, I do not salt this dish while it cooks. If making a vegetarian version, start at step 2 by warming a couple tablespoons of olive oil in lieu of pancetta and at step 5, taste to salt.

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