One of my greatest talents is my ability to use up leftovers in creative and tasty ways. It is very, very rare that we throw out food at our house: Everything gets eaten. That doesn't mean we're eating sad, tired leftovers. Instead, I try to think of ways to reinvent and revive what remains from a previous meal.
For example, last night I looked in the fridge to see what we had and I noted we had lentils leftover from Monday night (I cooked them as a side using a simple recipe from How To Cook Everything Vegetarian.) I also knew we had a ton of dry pasta on hand, so I logged onto epicurious.com to see if there might be a pasta recipe that featured lentils. Sure enough, there were several options. I decided to create a version of the Orecchiette with Lentils, Onions, and Spinach from Gourmet magazine circa 2003, as we also had some baby spinach in the fridge. The results were pretty darn good, give it a try.
Orecchiette with Lentils, Onions, and Spinach
Adapted from Gourmet
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 1 1/2 large onions, thinly sliced
• 2 garlic cloves, chopped
• 1/8 teaspoon salt
• several grinds of fresh black pepper
• 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
• 1 bay leaf
• 2 cups cooked lentils lentils*
• 8 oz. pound orecchiette
• 5 oz. baby spinach
• 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1. Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then stir in onions and bay leaf; cook on high heat stirring the whole time for several minutes.
2. Reduce heat to moderately low add garlic, salt, pepper and red pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are very tender and golden, 20 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Add spinach to pan to wilt. Add lentils to pan.
3. Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions.. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain pasta in a colander and return pasta to pot.
4. Add onions, lentil, spinach mixture to pasta, then toss with just enough reserved cooking water to wilt spinach and moisten pasta. Add cheese and salt and pepper to taste, tossing to combine.
* If you don't have cooked lentils on-hand, you can cook lentils for this recipe: Cover 1/2 cup lentils with water by 1 inch in a 1 1/2- to 2-quart saucepan and boil over moderate heat, covered, until lentils are just tender and most of water is absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and let stand, covered, until ready to use.
Photo: Romolu Yanes, Gourmet