By Freya Bellin
Thanks to the combination of hearty lentils and mushrooms, this vegetarian dish tastes uniquely meaty. Plus—perhaps the best thing about stir-fries—it’s a quick one-pot meal. Even if you don’t have pre-cooked lentils on hand, they cook in just 30 minutes, so it’s easy enough to have those ready by the time you’ve finished washing and chopping the other ingredients. You won’t need the lentils until the end of the recipe anyway. If you opt not to use (or can’t find) the dried porcinis, consider adding an extra handful of fresh mushrooms to keep the proportions balanced.
The seasoning for this dish is simple, which allows the caramelized onions to really come through. Onions cooking in olive oil always smell great, but once they break down and release their natural sugars, they transform into something other-worldly. As is often the case with foods this delicious, you must be patient with them. I used a heavy pan and probably had the heat a touch too low when cooking this recipe, so my onions took closer to 25 minutes to fully caramelize. Rest assured that it is worth the wait. While the recipe below calls for the onions as a garnish of sorts, I eventually ended up mixing mine into the rest of the stir-fry. The dish makes excellent leftovers, either reheated as is or served over a green salad. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.
Lentil Stir-Fry with Mushrooms and Caramelized Onions
Makes: 4 servings
Time: About 30 minutes with cooked lentils
Precooked lentils are so useful that it makes total sense to cook extra. Once you do that, it’s a snap to make this one-skillet dish, which you can serve with good bread or rice; or make the variation, an approximation of mujaddarah, a dish popular throughout the Middle East that adds rice to the skillet. Lentil cooking water and porcini soaking water are both invaluable liquids; you can use either (or a little of both) to moisten the stir-fry and save the rest to flavor other dishes.
1⁄2 cup dried porcini mushrooms, optional
Boiling water as needed
2 tablespoons olive oil, or more as needed
2 onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 pound mushrooms, preferably an assortment, sliced
3 cups cooked lentils, drained, liquid reserved
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
Salt and black pepper
1. If you’re using the porcini, put them in a small bowl, cover with boiling water, and let soak for about 20 minutes. Drain, reserving the soaking liquid, and roughly chop.
2. Meanwhile, put 2 tablespoons oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until they are dark brown but not burned, about 15 minutes; then remove them from the skillet.
3. Add a little more oil to the pan if it’s very dry and add the fresh mushrooms and the porcini if you’re using them. Cover the skillet, reduce the heat to medium-low, and let the mushrooms cook, undisturbed, for about 5 minutes to release their liquid. Remove the cover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are dry, shrunken, and slightly crisp, about 5 minutes more.
4. Stir in the lentils, 1⁄4 cup or so of the lentil cooking water (or porcini soaking water), and the thyme; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until everything is heated through, about 5 minutes. Serve garnished with the caramelized onions.
Lentil and Rice Stir-Fry with Mushrooms and Caramelized Onions: Substitute 1 cup cooked brown rice for 1 cup of the lentils; add more water if needed to keep the mixture moist as it cooks.