Thursday, February 28, 2013

Lentils and Caramelized Onions with Angel Hair Pasta

When I was a kid I picked the onions out of everything: chili, spaghetti sauce, meatloaf; most meals ended with a loathsome little pile of onions on the side of my plate.

I'm still kind of picky about onions. I don't much like them raw, and I strongly dislike them undercooked. But I am crazy about onions caramelized in olive oil. My younger self would be shocked to learn that caramelized onions, brown, sweet, and melt-in-your-mouth tender, are one of my favorite things in the world to cook and eat.

For this week's cooking lesson I had three aims: to show Henry another great way to serve lentils; to teach him how to caramelize onions; and to convert my onion-hating son into an onion aficionado.

Mission accomplished for two out of three, but I was so busy devouring my meal (this dish is mysteriously delicious) that I didn't notice until washing-up time that Henry had arranged his onions in a tidy pile on the side of his plate.

The circle of life.

Lentils and Caramelized Onions with Angel Hair Pasta
Serves 4

3/4 cup dried green lentils, rinsed and drained
2 medium onions, cut in half and sliced thinly
8 ounces angel hair pasta (if you don't eat pasta, omit and double the lentils)
6 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus two pinches for cooking onions and pasta
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
pinch cayenne pepper, optional
parsley, chopped

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add lentils, reduce heat to medium and simmer 15 minutes or until lentils are tender but intact.

While lentils are cooking, caramelize the onions: Heat olive oil in a large, deep skillet, add onions and cook over high heat, stirring constantly, until onions start to sizzle. Add a pinch of salt, stir well, and reduce heat to medium-low. Cover onions and cook for 5 minutes. Uncover and cook 10-15 more minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are sweet and delicious and you are tempted to eat them on the spot with a spoon. Resist.

After lentils have cooked 15 minutes, add angel hair pasta with a generous pinch of salt, and cook 4-5 minutes, until pasta is al dente. Drain and return to big cooking pot. Gently stir in caramelized onions, salt, pepper, and optional cayenne.

Serve warm, garnished with lots of parsley. If you have leftovers, this makes an excellent next-day lunch.