Black Lentils with Spinach & Labneh
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Black lentils cook quickly, hold their shape, and have a nice texture and flavor. They behave very similarly to French green lentils but perhaps cook a little more quickly. Why am I only just learning about them?
I bought them on a whim, and when I saw this black lentils with spinach recipe in Stacy Adimando’s Piatti, which looked super simple and delicious — a plump ball of burrata garnishes the plate of lentils in the accompanying photograph — I went for it.
I first made the lentils for my parents who were visiting, and as I noted last week, they returned home and continued making them. I have been, too. This has become one of my favorite weeknight meals.
In short you:
- cook lentils
- sauté an onion
- reduce vinegar
- combine the lentils and onion
- fold in greens
- serve with something creamy
I’ve mostly been using, as suggested, tender baby spinach, but I’ve also used beet greens (and roasted beets). I think any number of greens could work here: Swiss chard, turnip greens, mustard greens, etc.
Stacy likes to serve these lentils with burrata, which makes sense — the texture and sharpness of the lentils balances out the creaminess of the burrata. When I made these for my parents a few weeks ago, I did in fact use burrata, but I’ve since been serving them with labneh, another ingredient I am loving and only just discovering.
I haven’t tried, but I image fresh ricotta, Greek yogurt, or goat cheese (maybe thinned with milk to make it more spreadable) would all be delicious here. And this may sound odd, but I think even a smear of cream cheese could work — labneh tastes like a richer, creamier cream cheese.
Once you make this dish once, you’ll find countless ways to adapt it with various greens, vegetables, and creamy smear. I hope you love it as much as I do.
Here’s the play-by-play: Gather your ingredients.
Simmer the lentils in one pot; sauté an onion in another.
When the lentils are finished, add some vinegar to the onions and let it reduce.
Combine the lentils and onions.
Fold it in.
Get ready to serve.
Smear some labneh across a plate.
Spoon lentils over top.
Adapted from Stacy Adimando’s Piatti, a cookbook all about plates and platters for sharing inspired by Italy, which I am loving: A few weeks ago I wrote about this shaved fennel and avocado salad from the same book.
Watch a how-to on Instagram Stories.
Scale this recipe up as needed. I find a half cup of lentils feeds two of us and leaves us with a teensy bit of leftovers. One cup of lentils would feed 4 people comfortably.
Before making this recipe, I had never cooked or eaten black lentils. I am really loving them. Similar to French green lentils, black lentils hold their shape and have a nice flavor and texture. They cook relatively quickly, too — 22 to 25 minutes — but times will vary so check the package for timing notes and taste the lentils as early as 15 minutes after you start cooking them.
Labneh or burrata: The original recipe calls for burrata, which of course is delicious. I am loving using labneh here, but if you can’t find it, you could use Greek yogurt, fresh ricotta, or even goat cheese whipped with some milk to thin to a spreadable consistency.
This dish comes together super quickly, but here are a few things I have been doing to get ahead:
- Put the lentils in a pot, bring it to a simmer, cover the pot and slide the pot off the heat. I’ll do this before we head out to afternoon activities with the kids. When I get home, the lentils are nearly cooked; I just need to bring to a simmer and cook briefly.
- Sauté the onion ahead of time and just leave it in its pan on the stovetop.
- You can make nearly the entire recipe ahead of time, too. If you want to do this, make it up until the point when you add the spinach. Hold the spinach till you are ready to reheat the lentils. Once they are warm, fold in the spinach.
- 1/2 cup black lentils (or French green lentils)
- kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
- 5 ounces baby spinach
- labneh (to taste) or burrata (one 8-oz ball) for serving, see notes above
- flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, for finishing
- Place the lentils in a small pot and cover with water by at least an inch. Add a teaspoon of kosher salt. Bring to a simmer. Simmer till done. Times will vary considerably. My black lentils have been cooking consistently in about 23-25 minutes. Drain.
- Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the oil over high heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt. Stir. Cover the pan and immediately turn the heat to low. I like to cook the onions super slowly for the entire time the lentils are cooking. Open the lid to check on the onions periodically, allowing any water trapped in the lid to drip back into the pan.
- When the lentils are done, remove the lid from the onion pan and turn heat to medium. Add the vinegar and cook until it reduces and becomes almost syrupy. Add the lentils and stir to combine. Add the spinach and a pinch of salt, then turn off the heat. Leave the spinach alone for a minute or two, then use tongs to incorporate the leaves into the lentils. Taste. Adjust with sea salt as needed or a splash more vinegar if necessary.
- To serve, smear some labneh across a plate. Spoon the warm spinach and lentils over top. Alternatively, if using burrata, break up the ball of burrata and drop spoonfuls of the creamy cheese over top.
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: lentils, black, labneh, burrata, onions, vinegar