Home-from-the-Airport, Meal-in-a-Bowl Lentils and Rice with Cheese, Nuts, and Herbs

Who hasn’t arrived home from the airport bleary-eyed, grungy, and starving after a day spent utilizing most conceivable types of transport? You’ve been away, so of course the fridge is in a pitiful state – a few elderly carrots, a not-so-pert lemon, the remains of that chunk of feta, a bedraggled sprig of thyme, and a few parsley leaves salvaged from the largely yellowed bunch.

Facing that very scenario after my last trip, here’s what I made. It tasted good, filled us up, and even provided a complete protein.

Consider the recipe as a loose guide for using odds and ends in your post-travel moment of need. Celery instead of carrots? Go for it. No lemon, but plenty of red wine vinegar? By all means. A little blue or goat cheese instead of feta? Of course. No red onion, but a few shallots? Use ‘em. You get the idea.

The lentils are the only ingredient about which I’ll be a stickler. I think standard supermarket brown lentils taste like mud, and have a texture to match. Far and away my favorite lentils are du Puy, from France. These small, deep green beauties hold their shape and texture when cooked, and to my palate they taste richer and cleaner than their brown brethren.

Makes about 8 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • ½ cup lentils du Puy, picked over and rinsed
  • 1 cup Basmati rice
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large carrots, scraped and finely chopped
  • ¾ cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1 cup crumbled feta (about 4 ounces)
  • ¾ cup hazelnuts, walnuts, or pecans, lightly toasted and chopped
  • ½ cup chopped mixed fresh herbs, such as parsley, mint, dill, basil, chives, and tarragon

Directions

1. Bring about 3 quarts of water to the boil in a large pot over high heat. Add 1½ teaspoons of salt and the lentils; reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the rice, increase the heat to high and return the water to the simmer, reduce heat to low again, and continue simmering until lentils and rice is tender but not mushy, 10 to 15 minutes longer. Drain the lentils and rice in a large strainer, then spread them on large rimmed baking sheet to cool quickly.

2. Meanwhile, whisk the vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, thyme, 1½ teaspoons salt, and pepper to taste in a large bowl. Whisking constantly, very slowly drizzle in the olive oil; continue whisking until the mixture is thickened slightly and uniform. Add the cooled lentils and rice, carrot, and onion, toss to combine, and rest for at least 15 minutes for flavors to blend. Add the feta, nuts, and herbs, and toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings with additional salt, pepper, or lemon juice, and serve.