Thursday, January 10, 2013

Baked Lentil and Brown Rice Casserole

I think it's fair to say that I've tried lots of things thus far in my life, but it's also true that there are so, SO many more things yet for me to experience. For instance, I have never poached an egg. This isn't the kind of meaningful or awe-inspiring activity I would add to my bucket list, of course, but I do feel motivated to try it in the near future.
Great cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi
The impetus of this desire is coming from two sources. One is the lovely new cookbook a friend gave me for Christmas. It's called Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. The pictures alone are worth owning it for. There is a recipe for Mushroom Ragout with Poached Duck Egg that is calling my name and I anticipate this to be the first recipe I will attempt from this collection. Then, this past weekend, I had brunch with my cookbook giving friend at the Beehive in Boston's South End. I adore this place. The downstairs is brick walled and funky with live jazz or blues music playing often. I remember the first time I walked downstairs, I felt like I had accidentally stepped out of Boston and into Manhattan. Somebody from Manhattan would likely disagree with me and tell me I have no idea what I'm talking about, and this is likely true. All I'm saying is that this place has some serious character. Anyhow, Sallie ordered one of their signature dishes, Eggs Shakshuka, and I panicked when the waiter came over because I wasn't ready, so ordered an omelet. When our meals were delivered, I immediately had poached egg envy.  So I either need to get myself back to The Beehive soon, or learn to poach an egg for myself.
 I'm also intrigued by trying an egg from a fowl other than chickens. It goes without saying that whatever egg I eat is derived from feathery friend is living a good life roaming the range by day, sleeping in a soft bed at night, eating real food not seeped in antibiotics and willingly hands its eggs over to the farmer as payment for its room and board. I've started going to the Winter Farmers Market in Somerville on Saturdays. They do have eggs, but I'm not sure if they only ever have chicken eggs, but I plan to find out.
So, I will get back to you on how egg poaching goes. In the meantime, I have lots of recipes I need to post from dishes I tried over the holidays. This one is not picture worthy because it's not necessarily visually appetizing. It is nothing to get excited over, but it's a good one to have around. It's a basic, nutritious and extremely easy casserole. If you're in the mood for a casserole, but you're not in the mood for several steps, this is what you need to make. Nothing has to be cooked prior to adding it in. The ingredients are just mixed up in the baking pan and tossed in the oven.  It takes a long time to cook which is the trade-off, but you hardly have to tend to it at all.
It would be great with a green veggie on the side. It also lends itself well to experimenting to suit your tastes. I will provide you with the basic recipe which has many Internet sources, and you can play with it.

Baked Lentil and Brown Rice Casserole
3 cups veggie broth
3/4 cup uncooked lentils, sorted and rinsed (I tried a small black variety that I preferred over the green ones)
1/2 cup uncooked brown rice
1 small onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced (or high quality garlic powder)
1 tspn (at least) Italian seasoning and/or whatever other spices seem like a good idea to you (the 2nd time I made this I used a tblspn cumin and a couple tspns of oregano and liked this blend better)
salt and pepper to taste
shredded cheese, optional
chopped avocado, optional (when using cumin blend)

1. Pre-heat oven to 325
2. Mix all ingredients in a 2 qt casserole or 11X7 baking dish
3. Cover with foil and bake for at least an hour or until all water is absorbed. I check it after an hour, but have found it typically needs at least another 20 minutes.
4. If using cheese, add now and bake for another 10 minutes until melted. When I made the cumin blend, I did not bake cheese on the top, but topped it with chopped avocado and thought that was a good combo.

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