Umbrian Lentils with Steamed Mussels, Toasted Spices, Almonds and Sweet Apple Vinegar
This recipe is featured in Flamingo Tongues and Frittatas, The Foods of Ancient Rome
Chef Michael Pagliarini, owner of the Cambridge, Massachusetts, restaurants Giulia and Benedetto, created this delicious Apicius-inspired lentil and mussels dish. The recipe combines the sweet, briny taste of freshly steamed mussels with a complex mixture of honey, spices, fermented fish sauce and earthy lentils.
For the lentils:
- Half an onion
- One-quarter bulb fennel
- 1 small carrot
- 1 stalk celery
- 85 grams (3 ounces) pancetta
- 30 ml (2 tablespoons) extra-virgin olive oil
- 237 ml (1 cup) lentils (Umbrian, or French de Puy)
For the spice mixture:
- 15 ml (1 tablespoon) whole black peppercorns
- 15 ml (1 tablespoon) whole coriander seeds
- 5 ml (1 teaspoon) cumin seeds
- 60 ml (¼ cup) honey
- 60 ml (¼ cup) sweet apple vinegar (or good quality cider vinegar)
For the mussels:
- 1 shallot, minced
- 15 ml (1 tablespoon) extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 bay laurel leaves
- 2.5 ml (½ teaspoon) ground black pepper
- 118 ml (½ cup) sprigs of mixed parsley, mint, and coriander/cilantro
- 1.8 kg (4 pounds) mussels, rinsed and de-bearded
- 59 ml (¼ cup) white wine
- 5 ml (1 teaspoon) colatura di alici (or fish sauce)
For assembly and serving:
- Salt, as needed
- Ground black pepper, as needed
- Sweet apple vinegar or cider vinegar, as needed
- Toasted, chopped almonds, for garnish
- Chopped parsley, for garnish
- Chopped cilantro, for garnish
1. For the lentils: Preheat oven to 177°C (350°F). Chop the onion, fennel bulb, carrot and celery into very large pieces so they can be easily removed once they’ve given their flavor to the lentil stew. Rub the vegetables and pancetta with the olive oil and roast in a heavy bottomed pan until browned and well caramelized.
2. Add the lentils and cook for a few minutes in the rendered fat and olive oil. Add just enough water to cover, and continue roasting until the lentils are tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove and discard vegetable pieces. Season lentils with salt, set aside, and keep warm.
3. For the spice mixture: Toast the spices in a dry pan until aromatic. Pound them in a mortar until pulverized. Add the honey and vinegar. Mix well, and set aside.
4. For the mussels: In a large wide pan over medium heat, sauté the shallot in olive oil until tender. Add the bay leaves, pepper, herbs. mussels, wine, and colatura. Turn the heat up to high, cover and cook just until the mussels open. Set aside and reserve the cooking liquid.
5. For assembly and serving: In a mixing bowl, toss the warm lentils with the spice mixture and the cooking liquid from the mussels. Adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper and vinegar as needed. Spoon the lentil stew into warm bowls and arrange the mussels on top. Garnish with chopped almonds, parsley, and cilantro.
Sauce for Mushrooms - Apicius 7.13