All winter long, I ate lentils. I made them often and ate them greedily, thinking, for some reason, that winter is the only season for lentils. Of course you could have them a few times in the late fall, when the weather starts to get blustery, and even once or twice at the very onset of spring, when it’s still freezing out. But, when you did that, you’d be eating the dish out-of-season.
Towards the end of winter, I began feeling blue over this. I had been nourishing my little family of two (with some leftovers for the dog) for the whole winter. Lentils provided many substantial dinners, lunches, and even breakfasts. I had made lentils of all kinds—red, green, black, yellow—and every dish was different then the last; lentils are infinitely adaptable.
What was I going to do for all those upcoming seasons? Sure, I consoled myself with thoughts of berries, green veggies, lettuces, and tomatoes, but I couldn’t shake the sadness over losing lentils. And then, after weeks of this edging melancholy, I realized, like duh, why can’t lentils be made for any season? Of course! Just because you are making a lentil stew, that doesn’t mean you need to fill it with canned tomatoes and mustard greens. There’s no need for smoky pimento or turnips or squash. I had spent the entire winter fooling around with lentils and I never even thought about how far I could go—switch up the other ingredients and you can do anything with lentils!
When the weather began to turn up the heat, I was ready with a few notebook pages full of spring lentil ideas. This one encapsulates the beginning of spring—mint, peas, and carrots. It’s the perfect side dish for pork or lamb—a touch sweet, a bit salty, and very green. While it’s still a hardy dish (great for this fickle weather), the peas and mint are redolent of all the light, brightness of spring
Spring Lentils with Peas and Mint
3 slices bacon, chopped
2 onions, chopped
1 bunch carrots, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 bouillon cube
2 cups lentils, french
8 oz. green peas, frozen, not thawed (or fresh if you find nice, young ones)
1-2 tablespoons mint, fresh, chopped
a big pinch of salt and pepper to taste
Render bacon fat in a large dutch oven. When crisp, remove bacon and reserve on paper towels.
Add onion and carrot to dutch oven with rendered fat. Let cook until beginning to color. Add garlic.
Meanwhile, bring lentils to boil in a small saucepan with water. Let cook 15-20 minutes or until barely tender. Drain lentils.
Add lentils to dutch oven with bouillon cube and 3 cups water, simmer for 5 minutes. Add peas and let cook another 10-15 minutes, or until all the vegetables are cooked and a lot of the water has been absorbed. If you like, blend some of the lentils with an immersion blender for a few pulses to thicken. Season with salt, pepper, and mint.