Lentils, Lens ensculenta, are small nutty tasting legumes or pulses. Round, oval or heart-shaped, they’re most commonly brown or green, but also grow in black, yellow, red and orange varieties.
Ingredients1 cup dried brown or green lentils 4-1/2 cups cold water 1-1/2 teaspoons salt 1 medium (3/4-pound) fennel bulb, stalks discarded, reserving fronds 3-1/2 tablespoons olive oil 1 medium onion, finely chopped 1 carrot, cut into 1/4-inch dice 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds 1-1/4 pounds sweet Italian rope sausage 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper 1 tablespoon vinegar 4 small round bread loaves, such as boules Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
- Bring the lentils, water, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt to a boil in a 2-quart heavy saucepan, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until lentils are just tender but not falling apart, 20 to 25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cut the fennel bulb into 1/4-inch dice.
- Chop enough fennel fronds to measure 2 tablespoons and set aside.
- Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a 4-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat until hot but not smoking; stir in the diced fennel, onion, carrot, fennel seeds, and remaining teaspoon salt.
- Cover the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are very tender, about 10 minutes.
- Lightly cook the sausage in remaining 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until brown and cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes.
- Transfer to a cutting board and cut the sausage on the bias into 1/2-inch-thick slices.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Drain the cooked lentils in a sieve set over a bowl, saving the cooking liquid.
- Stir the lentils into vegetables with enough cooking liquid to moisten (1/4 cup to 1/2 cup) and cook over moderate heat until heated through.
- Stir in the parsley, pepper, vinegar and 1 tablespoon of the fennel fronds.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning.
- Cut and hollow out the bread to form bowls, trimming rounds taken from the top to flatten.
- Place the bread bowls into the oven to brown and crisp, 5 to 7 minutes.
- Spoon the lentils into the bowls, top with sausage and sprinkle with the remaining fennel fronds and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil.
- Top with the bread rounds and serve immediately.