Purcell Mountain Farms Lentils
For many years, the extent of my relationship with lentils was limited to lentil soup which never seemed to have as much flavor as a bean and vegetable soup and was certainly not as appetizing to look at. Then, while shopping in a small grocery store, I noticed bags of multi-colored lentils which intrigued me as I always thought lentils were limited to either the little French dark green puy variety or the big hearty American version.
There are actually more than a dozen different varieties of lentils, each with a distinctive color, texture, and taste. High in protein and fiber, lentils are a nutritious alternative to consider as a main course and here is the secret that nobody ever told me: lentils can be cooked and served in their natural shape or if cooked longer, some lentils serve as a great thickener for soups or pasta dishes. Cooking several varieties together results in the small lentils breaking down and providing a thick base while the heartier lentils keep their shape and give that extra nutty earthy flavor. And, using different colored lentils make a dish more appetizing to look at.
If I was going to purchase lentils, I wanted to purchase them from the source as I knew the chances of getting the freshest product would lay with going to the grower. In the northeastern part of Idaho at the foothills of the Purcell Mountain Range is a family-owned and operated farm called Purcell Mountain Farms. A grower and distributor of a dozen varieties of lentils, Purcell Mountain Farms sells locally grown delicious lentils for about $3-$4 a pound, depending on the amount purchased. A brief description of their lentils is as follows:
Petite Estoria: This dark green lentil breaks down in cooking and serves as a great thickener.
Petite Golden: A small, firm round yellow lentil that holds its shape in cooking. The flavor is mild and earthy.
Petite Castillo: These small dark-colored lentils have a nutty earthy taste and take about 30 minutes to cook.
Black Beluga: A small shiny black lentil that keeps its shape when cooked for 15-20 minutes.
French Green: A tiny green lentil similar to the French grown variety known as Puy. These lentils require about 45 minutes of cooking time but they tend to keep their shape.
Petite Crimson: The Petite Crimson lentil is a small orange lentil that cooks in about 5-6 minutes if used as a side dish and in about 20 minutes if used as a thickener in soups or dishes.
Spanish Pardina: A small lentil with a nutty flavor that holds its shape when cooked.
Canary: Bright yellow lentils that hold their shape when cooked for 5-6 minutes. A longer cooking time will allow them to break down and serve as a thickener for soups and dishes.
Red Chief: An orangey red lentil that can be cooked for minutes to retain its shape or longer if being used as a thickener for a soup of dish.
Marrone: A round brown flat lentil known for its full flavor which leads it to be used often as a meat substitute.
Ivory: The ivory lentil is also known as the “Ural Dal” lentil.This ivory white lentil is known for its mild earthy flavor and soft texture.
Lenticchie: A small light brown disk-shaped lentil that cooks in 20-30 minutes.
One of my favorite lentil dishes is “Pasta with Lentils” which reminds me of a cross between a hearty chowder and a risotto. With lentils and a small, thick pasta as the foundation for the dish, I add onions, carrots, and celery for vegetables and freshly grated parmesan cheese to get that extra creamy flavor. This is not a dish that will wow you with eye appeal but it’s simple and delicious. I always put my “Pasta with Lentils” in a pretty bowl which makes the finished product look better. Grate fresh parmesan on the top, if desired. A satisfying dish that can be served as a main course, “Pasta with Lentils” can be reheated and served as lunch, also. I keep a container in the refrigerator for a quick healthy snack.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Large Vidalia onion, chopped
4 large carrots, chopped
2 large stalks celery, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup of lentils (I use a blend with my standard being: Petite Golden, Petite Crimson, Spanish Pardina, Black Beluga, and Ivory White – some will fall apart and make the dish heartier while others will keep their shape and cling to the pasta)
1 small (2 inches by 1 inch) Parmesan Cheese Rind (leftover from a piece of parmesan)
4 cups of water
8 ounces of Sclafani Little Hats 300 Pasta (or any small thick pasta),cooked al dente
1 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup of chopped fresh parsley (optional)
- Melt the unsalted butter in a large soup pot.
- Add the salt and chopped onions, carrots, and celery and saute for 5-6 minutes over medium heat, being careful not to brown the vegetables.
- Add the water, rind, and lentils. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat, cover and cook for 20-25 minutes.
- Add the cooked pasta, cover and simmer for an additional 10 minutes.
- Remove from heat and discard the parmesan rind.
- Stir in the parmesan cheese.
- Stir in the fresh parsley and serve.
- Pass extra freshly grated parmesan.
Purcell Mountain Farms
393 Firehouse Road
Moyie Springs, Idaho 83845