Saturday, November 17, 2007

'Heart of the Matter' event

Michelle, Joanna and Ilva organize a monthly event called 'Heart of the Matter'. The idea is to try to prepare good and healthy food, so that also people with heart problems can enjoy them! This means, of course, no butter, fat, not too much sugar, and not even too much olive oil! Their challenge this month is to use these guidelines to prepare a holiday food - make one up, or modify a traditional one in a healthy way.
This challenge was inspiring to me, and I decided to participate for the first time to this event. I decided I'd make something that in Italy we usually eat on the first of the year: lentils. Eating lentils in this occasion is considered to bring good luck for all the year.. I love lentils, especially the simple way that we usually make them. The problem is that usually, they go together with a super-fatty-way-too-greasy sausage called 'cotechino'. Now, I must say: it is good, and if you have a small piece just in that occasion, it cannot harm you too much, but I decided I'd never make it again in my life when I saw what happened the first and only time I tried. When we were done eating, one of my guests decided that, to help me clean up, she would pour the fat that was left in the pan down the sink. The sink was so badly clogged that after everyone left I had to work with every sort of chemical and mechanical tool to try to unclog it, and it took hours of hard work surrounded by rancid fat smell.
Ok, now that I grossed everyone out, here is my healthy recipe. :) Instead of using cotechino, I mixed lentils with pasta. Pasta and lentils is another typical combination in Italian cuisine. Usually it's a delicious and thick soup where pasta and some lentils are mixed. Here I used as many lentils as pasta, and my 'innovation' was the addition of some lime juice. It gave it a really good twist, and it eliminated the need of adding any cheese at all.

Pasta e lenticchie con un tocco di lime / Lentil and pasta with a touch of lime

Warm up 1.5 tbsp olive oil in a pan and saute half an onion, finely cut. Add 1/2 lb dry lentils, after rinsing them. Stir to coat them with oil and onion pieces, and then add enough water to cover them and have ~1" more above them. Cover, bring to boil and lower the heat. Add ~1/2 tbsp salt and a few bay leaves. Keep simmering, covered, for ~20 minutes. Check once in a while and make sure the water has not completely evaporated, and add more if necessary. Taste to check the salt and the tenderness. When done, eliminate the bay leaves. There should be still some liquid in the pan with the lentils.
In the meanwhile, cook 1/2 lb pasta in boiling water (remember to add some salt to the water). When the pasta is al dente, drain it. Save some water if you want to make the final dish more soupy. Pour the pasta in the lentil pan, mix, and add the juice of half a lime to it. Serve with pepper, if you want, and a wedge of lime. It's super delicious and very healthy!


Simona said...

Ciao Marta. I am Italian too and live in Berkeley too, though part-time. My mother makes lentils (rigorously di Castelluccio), but uses sausages instead of cotechino (of which you gave a perfect description). I prefer to go vegetarian.

chemcookit said...

eheh :) Yeah, I'm semi-vegetarian too. What's the difference between lentils di Castelluccio and regular ones? Sorry for my sacrilegious ignorance :)