The Make-Ahead Lentil & Kale Dish for Desperate Times

January 15, 2016

I am a culinary thrill-seeker. I daydream about tasting obscure ingredients from far-flung places. When someone says, “Yuck, this is the weirdest thing I’ve eaten,” I say, “Hey buddy, can I taste it?” There is only one scenario that causes problems for me: that moment when all of a sudden you realize that you are very hungry and your refrigerator is very empty.

A friend or loved one may offer a stopgap solution like a carrot stick or a cracker, but you might be too ravenous for these feeble items. You need something savory, warm, and filling, and you need it fast! If only you had planned ahead by cooking a big batch of creamed lentils with kale, you could have stored some in your refrigerator for moments just like this.

Now, you may be asking yourself, what are creamed lentils? Most importantly, they are soft, luscious, and fulfilling. Technically speaking, they are French green lentils that have been cooked past the point of doneness so that they begin to break down and achieve a creamy texture. The addition of sautéed lacinato kale and a splash of heavy cream toward the end of the cooking process helps evoke the nostalgia of creamed spinach. A dusting of freshly grated nutmeg elevates the dish from utilitarian to exciting. Another exciting flourish: This dish specifically calls for water instead of stock to cook the lentils because the water will mix with a few umami-heavy ingredients to make essentially a quick homemade stock—it’s sure to surpass any store-bought stock in flavor and freshness.

Photo by James Ransom

It is true that I am always looking for my next great food adventure. But, I also feel very satisfied when I am eating simple, classic flavors that have been thoughtfully prepared. This creamed lentils dish will satisfy at all hours of the day. It can be used as a side dish underneath roasted chicken or pork, it can be eaten on its own as a hearty vegetarian lunch, or you can even eat some with a fried egg on top for breakfast. Just remember to plan ahead before you get too hungry and find yourself with an empty refrigerator.

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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Josh Cohen

Written by: Josh Cohen

Born and raised in Brooklyn, I’m perpetually inspired by the diversity of foods that exist in this city. I love shopping at the farmer’s market, making ingredients taste like the best versions of themselves, and rolling fresh pasta. I learned how to make fresh pasta in Italy, where I spent the first 6 months of my career as a chef. I've been cooking professionally in New York City since 2010.


LeBec F. January 16, 2016
hmmmmm, tomato paste and miso. don't know why i'm tending to grimace, after all, i use tamari in EVerything; it must just be that i'm not in the 'miso-gotta have it' camp. But i'm curious about your using such miniscule amounts of those two. Do you really even taste them? Were you wanting to use more but worried about scaring off some cooks?
BrooklynBabette January 15, 2016
Looks good. If we get really cold weather I will make it as it seems suited. However, a "splash of heavy cream" is less than a cup.
Annada R. January 15, 2016
And just right for those crazed times!
Annada R. January 15, 2016
Well said about hunger pangs on top of an empty fridge, Josh Cohen! When I'm going nuts with hunger, no piece of fruit or carrot stick will do. I need starch, carbs! This recipe looks lovely.