It is cold here in Central Ohio! Okay, that might be exaggerating a wee bit, but I have the window open in my office and it is currently 63 degrees. I would close the window and warm up, but there are kitties looking out over the traffic, so I'll just add another layer. . . we are scheduled for light patchy frost this evening.
The chill in the air has finally got me thinking about the Autumn and Winter, and the hearty dishes we can enjoy during those months. Although this dish is inspired by Mediterranean ingredients, I always think of lentils as an Autumn food, especially when blended with sausage - or one of our favorites, with curried apples. French green lentils might be a little hard to find at first, but resist the urge to buy them at Whole Foods or another gourmet store where they will be highly overpriced. They can be found for a fraction at Indian or Mediterranean groceries, such as Patel Brothers (Kenny Square shopping center, corner of Kenny and Old Henderson and the Northwest side) or at Mediterranean imports, a new favorite of mine, (which is at the corner of Ackerman and High street in Clintonville, next to Houndog Pizza and the late great Turkish Cuisine, a few blocks north of Hudson).
This dish is lightly spiced with paprika and garlic, and you could certainly add some chile flake or something to make it a little spicier, but I liked sticking with the hearty, earthy flavors inherent in lamb and lentils, as well as the typical spices found in chorizo (namely paprika).
Lentils with Lamb Chorizo and Feta - serves 2-4, depending on hunger of Husband
1 cup French green lentils, picked over for rocks, sticks, or other non-nutritive matter
2 lamb chorizo style sausages (note on source below); or other Mediterranean lamb sausage, or pork chorizo
1/2 large red onion, chopped into medium dice
1 red bell pepper, chopped into medium dice
6 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup red wine (optional)
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 tbsp balsamic or sherry vinegar
1 tsp smoked paprika (if you haven't used your in awhile, go out and buy some fresh - you'll probably wonder why you've overlooked it for so long)
freshly cracked black pepper
good extra virgin olive oil
4 ounces good feta - choose French for a mild flavor, or Greek for a tangier flavor - this is another product I like to buy by the pound at Mediterranean Imports in Clintonville; they have about 7 different varieties
Simmer the lentils in stock or water for 30-45 minutes, until they are soft. The nice thing about French green lentils is they hold their shape nicely after being cooked. Drain the lentils and set aside.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add a little olive oil. Remove the sausage from the casing and crumble (if you are using a pre-cooked sausage, chop the sausage, with the casing, into a medium dice) it into the pan, browning thoroughly until cooked through, then add the onions and cook until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the red peppers and the garlic and cook for minute or so, and then add the red wine, vinegar and the stock. Add the lentils to the pan and stir everything together. Add the paprika, a few pinches of salt, and about 10 grinds of pepper. Taste to check seasoning. Turn the heat up to high and simmer to reduce the wine and stock. You should end up with a nice ragout of lentils with very little extra liquid. Taste seasoning and adjust as needed. Place lentils in bowls and drizzle generously with good extra virgin olive oil and crumble over an ounce of feta.
A note on sources: I bought this fantastic lamb chorizo from Northridge Organics at the Worthington Farmer's Market; I'm not sure where you could find something similar, but another lamb sausage would work fine. Just for the record, the onions, peppers, and garlic all came from this week's farmer's market as well.