Recipe – Black Lentils with White Fish & Shiitake dried Mushrooms

Greetings!

Making this dish was an absolute joy. The balance is just perfect. I cooked the lentils with fresh jalapeño peppers instead of using the usual freshly ground black peppers or other routine seasonings. For this recipe, the jalapeño added a delightful taste to this dish. I prepared a large pot of lentils yesterday, enough for both lunch and dinner. Also this was my first time using the shiitake mushrooms which added another unique flavor. Accompanied by soft fish fillets, the meal was surprisingly good.

With the tight schedule and all of the things to do, I’m always looking for alternatives for a healthy recipe full of flavor that is satisfying and easy to prepare. You can eat the lentils with sweet potato as well, transforming this recipe into a vegetarian meal.

Now go and delight your family and your guests with this healthy dish.

If you have questions or comments, drop me line.

Black Lentils with White Fish & Shiitake dried Mushrooms

Ingredients: Serves 4 to 8

Time (for the lentils): 25 – 35 minutes

  • 1 cup organic black lentils [I used Whole Foods 365 organic black lentils]
  • 4 tbsp organic white onions, peeled and diced
  • 4 tbsp organic extra-virgin olive oil [I used Olio Basso]
  • 1 cup dried shiitake mushrooms [approx. 16 large dried mushrooms]
  • 4 tbsp fresh jalapeño peppers rinsed, seedless, deveined and diced [approx. 2 jalapeños mild-range]
  • 2 Atlantic Spanish mackerel fresh fillets [approx. 0.38 lb. each always choose fish, that is from sustainable sources.]
  • 2 Black cod fresh fillets [approx. 0.39 lb. each]
  • 4 bacon strips uncured [I used uncured center cut, smoke bacon reduced sodium, from – Whole Foods
  •  Kosher salt and freshly ground black peppercorn, [for the fish fillets]
  • Garnish with your favorite greens

How to Prepare the Lentils:

1. Before cooking the lentils always examine, sort and rinse well, lentils do note require soaking. Combine 1 cup lentils with 4 – 6 cups hot water. Simmer gently with lid tilted until desired tenderness is reached, about 25 – 35 minutes or until tender for main dishes.

2. Soak shiitake mushrooms in warm water for 20 – 30 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap to stop heat escaping.

Meanwhile: Rinse the fish fillets in cold water, while scraping off any scales and pulling out the bones (if any ) one with a tweezer. Then pat and dry with paper tower.

Season the fish fillets on both sides with salt and fresh ground black pepper, (depending on your preferences, you can add other herbs as well). Coat with extra-virgin olive oil and leave aside for couple of minutes.

3. Remove and squeeze excess water out of the shiitake mushrooms, then cut into 1/2 inch strips and set aside. Now chop the jalapeño peppers and white onions and set these aside as well in separe small bowls.

4. Preheat oven to 400°F.

a) Line the baking sheet with foil and place fish fillets on it. Cook for about 9 to 15 minutes relative to the thickness of the fish. In other words, bake until the fish is golden and crisp.

b) On another baking sheet with foil, place the 4 strips of bacon and cook until crisp for about 10 minutes at the same time as you are cooking the fish fillets, just put on a different shelf in the oven. It’s easier this way because you need to change the sides, of the fish fillets so you do the same with bacon strips.

5. By this time the lentils are already cooked. Heat the olive oil with medium heat in a large, heavy soup pot and add white onions and sautéed until golden, then add shiitake mushrooms, stirring the firsts ingredients, then add the lentils, continue cooking on low heat, partially covered for about 15 minutes, taste and adjust salt, then add the jalapeños, cooking for  5 – 10 more minutes. Once done, remove from heat.

6. First pour lentils on individual plates, then carefully top with the fish fillets, using a wide spatula to ensure that the fish does not fall apart when removing them from the baking sheet, then drizzle with chopped bacon. Garnish each plate with your favorite greens for freshness.

Notes: 

  • Preparation time was around 25 – 35 minutes for me. That is, preparing the lentils to cook first, then soaking the mushrooms, in between cleaning and seasoning the fish fillets. After that, cutting the white onions and jalapeños, also laying the strips of bacon on the baking sheet. As said before, it’s difficult for me to accurately estimate cooking times as each individual is different. If you follow this sequence and are organized, you have plenty of time to be ready without having to rush anything. Always when preparing this dish, remember to occasionally stir the lentils.
  • You can buy shiitake mushrooms in any Asian market or Chinese herbal shop. Select whole mushrooms not pre-sliced ones because it’s hard to gauge how much of the pre-sliced dried mushrooms are needed to equal a full cap. Most recipes call for a full-cap count of shiitake mushroom, not weight.
  • The mushrooms double in sizes after been soaked in hot water. Drain, strain the liquid and use in stocks, soups, stews, sauces, pâtés and gratins. Many recipes call for hot or warm water but it isn’t always necessary to use hot water. Room temperature water will also soften the mushrooms and many people believe it extracts less of the flavor and nutrients from the mushrooms, leaving more flavor for you to enjoy.
  • If you buy the package of mushrooms with stems, discard them, because they are too tough to eat. I bought mine without the stems and just used warm water to soak them like the instructions on the package.

 

The Grit

One of the big challenges with dried mushrooms is grit. Dried mushrooms are notoriously gritty and it only takes the tiniest amount of it to ruin a whole dish. Some people have even given up on dried mushrooms due to the fact that they can’t seem to get the grit out. Soaking as we explain here will remove the majority of it, and rinsing, too, will often take care of the rest.

Cheap and low-grade mushrooms tend to have more grit, and the amount of grit can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, depending on how they handle the mushrooms. Ask around, find a brand you like.

Notes continued:

  • Once an exotic, somewhat obscure item, dried mushrooms are easily available in many grocery stores these days. They fall roughly into two categories: Asian mushrooms like shiitake, wood ear, cloud ear, and matsutake, and European/American mushrooms like porcini, morel, trumpet, and chanterelle. Their quality, flavor, and amount of grit can vary considerably. Price is often a good guide as the pricier versions tend to be of higher quality and lower grit. Purchase your mushrooms from a reliable source or find a brand that you can rely on for quality. They will last a very long time — a year, if not more — if kept in a well-sealed container.
  • This recipe had been made using shallots instead of white onions. Both are delicious. If cooking with shallots, just double the table spoons (amount) and sautée over medium-low heat until they begin to soften and turn translucent not browned after about 3 – 5 minutes.
  • Drizzling with bacon is optional. In my opinion it gives added flavor to the dish as well as crunchiness in every spoonful. The bacon where baked is best drained of grease in a paper towel, chopped then mixed with sea salt.
  • Remember that the lentils will thicken as they sit. Leftovers should be placed in a Tupperware (or similar) container and refrigerated. Additional stock or water may be added to adjust the consistency of the lentils before reheating.
  • This recipe calls for a pepper to be seeded. This just means that you have to remove the seeds and veins. While it is actually the seeds and the veins that cause all the heat, the oils in the peppers can irritate your skin. Some people (including me!) always wear rubber gloves when seeding and chopping hot peppers.

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