Sam’s Lentils

20140113_BlogSamLentils-129When I first visited Sam’s bungalow while dating long-distance, he had glass jars perched on the kitchen shelves to house his beans and grains, all beautifully labeled and lettered. I knew I’d stumbled into something good. On my second visit to Seattle, he broke out the jar of lentils and set out to make me his “famous lentils.” I was a bit skeptical as to how famous they could really be — I’d always known them to be the reliable base for an easy vegetarian soup or the stuff of hippy deli salads. But that afternoon we made hot tea and ate the lentils standing up over the stove, straight from the pot. With the first bite I told Sam — only half kidding — never to make the famous lentils for another woman. They are that good. We’ve joked about that afternoon ever since, me playfully insisting that I’d marry him for his lentils alone.  Well, on our drive down to San Francisco a few weeks ago, that promise became more true than ever.

Cannon Beach-2013-12-21 15.45.48
People! We are engaged! I’ve been so excited to tell you here but there has been so much going on with the cookbook release, that I wanted to wait until just the right time. And this week has felt like the perfect time: Sam has been out of town and I was slowly slipping back into my “single gal” eating habits (scrambled eggs and toast or quesadillas for dinner) when I began craving his lentils. He is not a ‘write down the recipe’ kind of guy so I had to call and have him walk me through how to make them. I chose his sturdy metal hand-me-down pot, turned on the radio and got to work. It turns out that recreating someone’s famous dish from scratch does help bring them right on into the kitchen with you, even if they happen to be across the country at the time.

  Heceta Head, OR-2013-12-22 13.11.36
I know many of you have been reading this site since Sam and I first began dating. In fact, I met many of you — who are now close friends — right around the time I moved back in with my mom after a long relationship ended suddenly. And I slowly wrote about dusting myself off, about moving into my own apartment for the first time, about slowly falling in love again, looking at new houses together, and taking the plunge to move to Seattle to join Sam after a good year of flying back and forth in between our two respective cities. I wasn’t always sure it would work; for anyone who has dated someone long-distance who you care about immensely,  you know that it’s really difficult. I’m a real planner and I like to slot everything into its rightful box and this was one of the first times I can recall where there was no way to envision what it would all look like or how it would come together: we didn’t know at the time who would move where, when that would be, if that would be. What would happen to my business? What would happen to my friends and family? Would we even like living together? There was no rightful box and no check-list, and I found myself panicking frequently. Sam would constantly assure me: It was all going to work out just fine. In its own time. Trust me.

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As we drove down the Oregon Coast, he reminded me again how true that promise was. Sam proposed on beautiful, rugged Cannon Beach. We were the only people on the entire swath of sand; it was as if someone had come by and cleared out the winter walkers so we could have center stage to stroll and talk about our future. We snapped some photos, we named some of the majestic rocks, we got sand in our shoes.

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As we walked back to the car to continue the long drive to California, I found myself picking up the pace, eager to get back into the warm car. But Sam grabbed my arm and said we had one more photo to take. He pointed to our feet. During that year of living apart, one of the things that helped us to feel closer to one another was taking quick cell phone photos of our feet. In fact, I have a whole folder called “feet photos” that I can’t bring myself to delete: some of me in flats as I headed to work at Heath Ceramics, others in running shoes as I headed out to run around the lake. Sam would have a pair of good reliable boots or Clarks on, and when I found myself missing him I’d scan through my phone to find those photos in particular. So right before we left the blustery, misty beach we snapped a photo of both of our feet — sandy and cold — but standing together in one frame.

20140113_BlogSamLentils-104
There are a lot of lentil recipes out there and in many ways, this one doesn’t look all that different — it’s, on first glance, a standard warm French lentil salad. But I think a lot of the difference is found in the approach and preparation: Sam slices the carrots and celery very, very thin. As thin as you can get them … and then you’re just about there. He doesn’t pre-cook the carrots or celery along with the onion, finding that they’re perfectly done if they cook alongside the lentils at the same time. This version below happens to be vegetarian, but Sam will often thinly slice and cook two hot Italian sausages to then fold into the lentils as they cook. I went with a straight-up ‘what do we have in our pantry?’ version but I do love the sausage as well. The good hit of Dijon punches up the flavor, and the parsley? Totally my idea. Sam would think this a bit fussy, but after reading Tamar Adler’s book I basically toss parsley into everything. We love this for easy lunches, topped with a runny egg. I had some last night with polenta — and the night before, topped a baked sweet potato with lentils. It’s hearty winter fare which, at this point in January, feels just right.

So with that: lentils. And a photo of the sky as we were driving away from Cannon Beach headed to a house full of family we’d share our big news with. The sky was so brilliant that night. Crisp and pink and bright. As evening grew nearer, it occurred to me that we’d just gotten engaged on the winter solstice: literally the shortest and darkest day of the year — a day that dictates that everything from here on out just gets lighter and brighter.

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I’d like to mention that my grandmother Marge passed away a few days after Christmas this year. Many of you know her as the namesake to my granola business. I am so heartened and happy that I got to tell her about our engagement over the phone before she passed. The morning we talked, my mom told me that she was doing very poorly and probably wouldn’t be able to respond much. To everyone’s surprise, she was able to talk to me: she had a wonderful way of saying things were “major” when she was delighted with them. A really good coconut cake? Major. A new color of Tom’s  sneakers out for the summer season? Major. Sam and Megan getting engaged? That was “major, major, major, major.” This got a lot of majors. We sent a photo of the ring a little while later so she and my Gramp could see. I’m guessing that might have gotten a “major,” too. Her spunk will be greatly missed at our wedding; I have a feeling her spirit won’t.

Sam's Lentils

Sam's Lentils

  • Yield: 4 servings
  • Prep time: 15 mins
  • Cook time: 45 mins
  • Inactive time: 10 mins
  • Total time: 1 hr 10 mins

These lentils are even better the next day, so we’ll often make a pot with the intention of not serving them for a day or two. When reheating, you may want to add a little extra water — the lentils can settle in and soak up a bit of the liquid as they sit.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic (or more, if you like!), very thinly sliced
2 medium carrots, very thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, very thinly sliced
1 cup green lentils, French Le Puy if you can find them
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
4 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley, to top (optional)
fried egg, to top (optional)

Instructions

Put a kettle or a pot (containing about 4 cups water) on the stove and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for an additional minute. Fold in the carrots and celery.

Add the lentils to the saucepan and stir to coat with the onion mixture. Pour the boiling water into the pan and stop when the level is about ½-inch over the top of the lentils (should be roughly 3 1/2 cups of water). Bring back to a good boil, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and cook the lentils for about 20 minutes. Stir in the mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper and cook an additional 10-15 minutes – or until lentils are tender but still slightly chewy.

 Remove from the heat and let sit for ten minutes. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper.

Serve warm – with a lightly-fried egg and a sprinkling of parsley on top if you’d like. Leftovers can be covered and refrigerated for an additional 4-5 days.

Comments

  1. Karin Carlson

    Congratulations! Best of love to you both!! BTW, loving your cookbook AND your granola. Making your yogurt recipe as we speak!

  2. Ashlae

    Over the moon for you two. Congratulations, lady!

  3. Lily

    Congratulations, Megan! So exciting. And the lentils sound good too. :)

  4. Heather

    What a beautiful story . Congratulations.

  5. Aunt V

    You are so right Megan, Mom's spirit will be there and everywhere.
    She had a way of rallying during the last couple of months and she
    was able to be there to share your special news. How wonderful!

  6. Carole

    I believe in love. And I wish you many years of adding to your love story.

  7. Daytona @ Outside Oslo

    Such sweet news, and a wonderful story to accompany it. I've enjoyed reading your story in "Whole-Grain Mornings," which is a lovely book, by the way. Congratulations to the two of you, and many happy, blessed memories to come. Also, my condolences to you with the loss of your grandma.

  8. lori

    Yipppeeeee!!! I feel like I've been waiting to read this for forever! Congratulations to Sam and Best Wishes to you Megan!

  9. Molly

    Wahooooooooooooooo! xx

  10. Katie @ Whole Nourishment

    Oh my goodness, what a gorgeous story Megan! I'm saddened to hear about your grandmother because I know how it feels. But congratulations on all of the positive moments this new year has brought with your book and engagement! And these lentils look divine, right up my alley!

  11. Kathryn

    Congratulations to both of you; I know you're going to have so many happy years together. Congratulations also on the success of your book, everything I see from it sounds delicious and I can't wait for my copy to arrive.

  12. Melissa

    Congrats on your engagement. I wish I had this recipe a few days ago. I made some lentil stew thing and it was awful. I will have to try this. The Dijon sounds really nice in it.

  13. thelittleloaf

    Hugest congratulations - having just got married I can pretty much guarantee you're going to have the best time EVER! Enjoy every moment of your engagement, and married life - here's to many more fabulous years of love and food.

  14. Hannah M.

    congratulations!

  15. Caitlin @ teaspoon

    well that was a tear jerker! congratulations on your engagement. It's such a fun time. I was so touched to read about your grandma being able to talk to you...little miracles like that make losing someone just a wee bit easier.

  16. ashley

    That's so sad about your grandmother, but how nice you were able to share your happy news with her. Very excited for you and Sam!

  17. SHANNA MALLON

    Beautifully told. I am so over the moon for you, I find myself feeling it's pretty major, too. Your grandma sounds like a GEM.

    1. megang

      Thank you, Shanna! She was pretty awesome :) Happy Friday to you both!

  18. Kelly

    Yay! I'm so happy for you and Sam! And I'm so sorry to hear about your grandma but I can just imagine how awesome it was to be able to share the news with her. Also—this recipe sounds amazing (and I don't usually say that about lentils).

    1. megang

      I know, Kelly. To be perfectly honest it might be the case that I bought the Trader Joe's pre-cooked lentils before this recipe creeped into my life. But they really are so easy and satisfying. Thanks for the sweet congrats, lady. Happy Friday!

  19. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction

    Congratulations on your engagement... A man who makes lentils is definitely a keeper! (Of course, I am sure he has plenty of other fabulous qualities, as well!)

    Sorry to hear about your grandmother... I remember you were telling me about her and how you wanted to start a bakery in her name years ago when I (very luckily) ended up sitting with you at dinner at Delancey during IFBC a few years back. She sounds like she was a fabulous lady.

    Also, thanks for sharing the lentils recipe... I just bought a bag of French green lentils that has been staring at me from the pantry shelf just waiting for inspiration. I think I have found it!

  20. Annie

    Aaaaaand I'm crying now. Love you people. and so excited to try this recipe! xoxo

  21. Kelan

    So lovely. Congrats again. And Godspeed to Marge who lives on in spirit and name.

  22. Ashley

    Congratulations and best wishes!
    And I wanted to say how much I love your beautiful writing and gorgeous photos. I'm so excited for your cookbook to arrive!

  23. Abby

    Congratulations! And what a great-looking lentil recipe, as well.

  24. molly

    WAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

    Oh, Megan, Sam, you two and your four excellent feet!! I am ridiculously pleased, on your behalf. So, so happy. A huge, deep-seated, wild congratulations to you.

    xoxo,
    Molly

    ps: YIPPPEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!

  25. Sara

    So sorry to hear about your grandmother! I love you!

  26. Rebeca

    Big congratulations, Megan! This was a beautiful story to read, and I'm glad you got to share the good news with your grandmother.

    Also, I finally got your book this week. Can I just say how amazing and beautiful and inspiring is it? I expected a great work, but woah it's exceeded all my expectations. I hope you feel VERY proud.

    And the lentils? Yes, please.

  27. Robin

    SO happy for you both! Very sweet story. We are lucky to have you in Seattle, Megan:)

  28. Willi Galloway

    Hooray, Megan! Hats off to you guys and a big hug from Portland! What a special place to get engaged.

  29. Julie

    Congratulations on your exciting news!!

  30. leela

    megan!! what a beautiful story -- i'm so happy for you both! xo

    1. megang

      Thanks, Leela!!

  31. Gayle

    Congratulations. So glad that your grandmother was able to share the engagement with you. Major!

  32. Haley

    YUM. I want this in my belly right now

  33. Siri

    Hearty Congratulations Megan. Food made with tons of memories in it always tastes better like these lovely lentils. So happy for you guys. :-)

    Siri

  34. Amanda

    Congratulations, what wonderful news!

  35. Kathy

    Congrats! No wonder at yesterday's Book Larder class you referred to Sam as your partner, then boyfriend and then fiancé - it's still new!

    Made these lentils for dinner tonight with Uli's hot Italian sausage. Yummy, my hub said they were the best lentils he's ever eaten. I would have to agree. Thank you for sharing the recipe.

  36. Katie

    What a sweet story! Congratulations! I'm very sorry to hear about your grandmother, but how wonderful that you were able to tell her the good news before she passed.
    I'm a new reader, just found my way over here after hearing about your cookbook all over my favourite blogs, and I can't wait to catch up on your beautiful site. Lentil salads are underrated, who knew they could be romantic!:)

  37. Argelia

    Congrats!
    I love this comfort food recipe, and this is very similar to what my mome use to make for us, she even put some turkey sausages in from time to time. the other slight diference is that she use to put Cilantro insted of parsley. top it with some lemon juice and warm corn tortillas and you are in heaven!

  38. Stella

    Wonderful and totally major.

  39. Helen @ Scrummy Lane

    Congratulations! I'm a newly-wed who went through the whole long-distance thing (Australia-Greece = eek!), but it makes you feel so grateful when you can finally be together 'properly'. Love the idea of these lentils. The Greeks have a similar version heavy on the bay leaves (called 'fakes') that they eat all the time. I like to top mine with plenty of vinegar, crispy croutons and cheese - yum!

  40. Ashley

    I'm not sure I've ever read anything more beautiful. So happy for you two. Looking forward to celebrating in person and seeing that ring!!! (I can't believe I forgot to ask to see it at the market. I was too excited about my granola - which was delicious by the way).

  41. Nancy A.

    Congratulations! Love the story, it was so touching. I am sorry your grandmother, she sounds so special and will be there with you at your wedding in spirit. I am new to your blog, but love. Am going to make Sam's Lentils and will think of you both and that wonderful story. Made my day brighter!

  42. Julia

    I am here on your website for the very first time ever, reading this post as an introduction to you, as prompted by a link from Joy the Baker. She had me at "her words (and lentils) are lovely." So here I am, reading your lovely words about a moment in your life and not knowing you at all. But my boyfriend and I take feet pictures. For seven months we texted feet pictures back and forth over a long distance. Our feet actually brought us together in the beginning. And so even though I barely know you, even by internet standards, I felt that silly connection. Congratulations on finding another pair of feet to walk down the beach with. That's so epic!

    1. megang

      Hi Julia! Thanks so much for sharing your story -- and long live feet photos! I hope you enjoy the blog and the recipes / stories here. Happy (almost) weekend, Megan

  43. Shannon

    This is my first time to your site. I became interested in your book through Heidi and Molly's sites. I'm definitely ordering it! So far, I've only read this post, but I had to comment. My husband and I were long distance (me in SF and he in WA) while we dated, and he proposed to me on Cannon Beach. One of our favorite surfing spots is just north of CB. We have now been married for five incredible years, live in the Seattle area, and have an amazing little guy keeping us busy. I wish you all the happiness we've had and more!

    1. megang

      SHANNON! What an unusual coincidence / similarity ... thank you for sharing your story. Cannon Beach is so, so beautiful - this was my first time there but hoping to go back in the summer when it's a bit warmer (it was really, really cold in Dec.). Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - and congratulations to you on 5 years + little one. Introduce yourself sometime if you ever go to the Ballard Farmers Market (I am there most weeks with Marge Granola). ~Megan

  44. Lisa

    This is such a lovely post. You have a way with words and your recipes are inspiring! Thanks and congratulations on your engagement!

  45. Aimee @ simple bites

    Big beautiful congratulations to you both! You know how to start a new year. =)

    Can't wait to make these lentils for breakfast.

    1. megang

      Thanks so much, Aimee!

  46. kickpleat

    Huge, happy congratulations to you both!!!! And I'll be making lentils soon :) Yay!!

  47. Heidi - Apples Under My Bed

    Congratulations, what a beautiful post. Major indeed. I adore the look of this recipe and cannot wait to make it, thank you for sharing.
    Heidi xo

  48. Marta

    I was so happy to meet you in person tonight at the Book Larder. I enjoyed your informative talk. Thanks for signing my copy of your book. All the best on the Book Tour and congratulations on your engagement!

    1. megang

      Thank you so much, Marta. I so enjoyed meeting you as well and hope you find some recipes in the book that keep you going through our gray Seattle winter. All my very, very best - Megan

  49. Alison

    Firstly, CONGRATULATIONS on your engagement! Secondly, this is the first time I've ever been to your blog. I absolutely love the style, and this lentil recipe is incredible. I particularly love the addition of a fried egg on top; you're speaking my language. Much happiness to you and yours!

    1. megang

      Thank you so much, Alison! So glad you made your way around to the blog ... and yes to eggs on top of pretty much anything. Happy cooking!

  50. Celeste

    Beautiful engagement story...all the best to you both! I'm not a big lentil fan but in honor of your engagement + a tasty sounding recipe I will give it a try (egg on top kinda sold me).

  51. Kathleen

    You have had a really amazing month, Megan. Congrats on the engagement! Cannon Beach is one of my favorite spots. The solstice part made me smile. Also, my condolences regarding your grandma. What a beautiful gift that you get to honor her with her batch of granola. I hope making it helps deal with the grief.

    Best wishes with your tour. I was sorry to miss your Seattle dates.

    (BTW, I've lost count of how many recipes I've made from your book. They all have been fabulous. Your Very Best Oatmeal is now our most common way to start the day and the ENTIRE family is pleased. Amen to that.)

  52. Hope Johnson

    Am very sorry to hear about Marge's passing. I remember your post explaining why you called the business Marge, and you had old photos of her. I think she had thick dark hair. I hope your grandad is doing okay.

    Love a good lentil recipe. Since it is 42 degrees here, might hold off awhile. Also, you totally had me going when you swapped between the recipe and the ah-mazingly romantic engagement story- I was like fuck the lentils, let's go back to the engagement! Haha! (Mind my potty mouth)

    I love how you can tie so many stories into the one strand so naturally and seemingly easily like they all belong together, and I guess they do.

  53. Linsey

    Megan, Congrats on the engagement AND on finding a man who knows how to cook a mean pot of lentils. Had these for lunch yesterday and today, and can't get enough of them-the mustard and red wine vinegar is just right. I doubled the batch to freeze half, but I don't know that they'll last that long. You have a lovely life of goodness ahead of you, with that man and that pot of beans. THanks for sharing!

  54. Louise @ Kitchen Fiddler

    Megan, I've enjoyed peeking at your site for several months, and this recipe is finally prompting me to comment. What a beautiful post, between the joy of your engagement, the loss of your beloved grandmother, and a commitment-worthy recipe indeed! These lentils were the perfect thing to cook during a recent snowstorm, and I've already made them again for friends who have swooned over this dish, especially when topped with a poached egg. I hope your cookbook tour will eventually bring you to NYC, and I look forward to working my way through those recipes too!

  55. Maressa

    Congrats, what a sweet story! I am making those lentils straight away, they look delicious!

  56. Ingrid

    Loved the lentils! They were better the second day. I skipped the egg and added goat feta. Delish!

    1. megang

      Awesome, Ingrid!
      I'm so glad. Enjoy the week, ~m

  57. Lisa

    These lentils are wonderful! Thank you for sharing!

  58. Mary

    I just stumbled upon this post and almost lost it when you mentioned taking photos of your shoes to feel closer to each other. My husband and I dated long-distance (Michigan to NJ) and I always feel a sort of kinship with other former long-distancers - it's not easy, but I think it does create a bond that you wouldn't have otherwise. I'm so happy that things worked out for you and your beau!

    1. megang

      Oh thank you so much, Mary. It's not easy ... but so often can work out. Glad you're enjoying the blog. ~Megan

  59. Celeste

    What a simple and beautiful recipe. I think I'll make it with an English banger sliced on top.
    I live in the Seattle area. Where might I acquire Lentilles Du Poy? Most the green lentils around here are from Oregon.

    1. megang

      Hi Celeste: We get ours in the bulk bins at PCC. Do you have a PCC where you live? If not, perhaps online? Best of luck + have a great weekend, ~Megan

  60. Jane

    It's been a couple years since you posted this, but I just made this and it really lives up to the hype! So delicious. I omitted the egg and parsley, but otherwise followed the recipe exactly, and in a vegan twist served it on a bed of sautéed Russian kale. So scrumptious!

    1. megang

      Awesome, Jane! I'm so glad you liked the recipe. I love these, too. And your twists sound fantastic! Thanks for the nice comment!

  61. Lynne

    Hi Megan,

    Just a note to say that this recipe was a lifesaver! It's been gray and rainy in my part of the world, I'm fighting a cold and coming off of 2 weeks travel. I wanted something healthy, warm, filling and homey that also would work as leftovers for a day or two. I love your recipes and this one was no different. I threw in a ham hock (because I had one that needed to be used up) and this made the perfect main meal. Today I enjoyed it for lunch, with egg :-). It was the best.

    Thank you so much for this recipe! Lynne

    1. megang

      Hi, Lynne. Thanks so much for your nice note. I'm so glad you enjoyed the recipe; it's so simple but so nourishing, isn't it? We've made the lentils plenty of times with sausage but I'm not sure if we've done them with a ham hock, so I'll have to try - thanks again, and have a great week!

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Smoked Salmon and Crème Fraîche Tart with a Cornmeal Millet Crust

Smoked Salmon and Crème Fraîche Tart with a Cornmeal Millet Crust

It's been a uniformly gray and rainy week in Seattle, and I'd planned on making a big pot of salmon chowder to have for the weekend, but then the new issue of Bon Appetit landed on my doorstep with that inviting "Pies for Dinner" cover, and I started to think about how long it's been since I made my very favorite recipe from my cookbook, Whole Grain Mornings. I'm often asked at book events which recipe I love most, and it's a tough one to answer because I have favorites for different moods or occasions, but I'd say that this savory tart is right up there. The cornmeal millet crust is one of my party tricks; when we need a quick brunch recipe, this is what I pull out of my back pocket because it's so simple and delicious. This is a no-roll, no fuss crust with a slightly sandy, crumbly texture thanks to the cornmeal, and a delightful crunch from the millet. In the past, I've used the crust and custard recipe as the base for any number of fillings: on The Kitchn last year, I did a version with greens and gruyere, and I teach cooking classes that often include a version heavy on local mushrooms and shallot. So if you are not keen on salmon or have some vegetables you're looking to use up this week, feel free to fold in whatever is inspiring you right now. Sometimes at this point in winter that can be hard, so hopefully this recipe may help a little. 

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