Rice Lentil Pilaf and Learning From the Past

May 9th, 2009

We bought a place in the country in 1977. We were reading The Mother Earth News magazines and other” back to the land movement” publications of the era and wanted to be as self sufficient as possible. The house that came with the property was a veritable shack, long ago abandoned with broken windows and critter droppings everywhere. At the time we were young and idealistic, full of energy and up for anything it took to accomplish our goals. My husband is an engineer and at the time he was doing research in solar energy applications and because the house had a good southern exposure, he was sure we could add on to the existing structure and create a solar heated home. I won’t go into the details here because this is supposed to be about the food (remember?), but we would have been better off tearing the whole thing down and starting from scratch. But, after a lot of hard work we ended up with a very nice house where we raised our son and remained until we retired two years ago.

For a time we had a large vegetable garden and chickens and I have to tell you that I miss the fresh eggs. This is a shot of our son, Michael, in 1980 with the king of the hen house.

There’s one thing I don’t miss . . . the pigs. They were wily pigs. There were two of them. There was already a chicken coop and a pig pen of sorts on the property so we thought it would be “way cool” to raise our own meat. Those pigs seemed to know what was in store for them, because their whole mission in life was to escape. They would throw themselves at the pen door until the wooden peg holding it shut would give way and set them free to run. One time when my parents were visiting, I looked out the kitchen window and there was my Dad, holding the pen door shut and apparently yelling for someone to come and help him as the pigs repeatedly banged against the unsecured door. But the kicker was the time I had to call the University where David taught and have his secretary announce to everyone within earshot “Dr. Klett, your wife is on the phone. Your pigs are out again and you need to go home.” The pork chops were excellent.

Also during this era one of my favorite cookbooks was Laurel’s Kitchen. Laurel was a clog wearing, long peasant skirt kind of gal who baked her own bread and lived in a commune. We were obviously not vegetarians like she was, nor commune wannabes, but there were many good dishes in this cookbook that are still relevant today in our health conscious, whole-grain leaning society. I would say her wisdom has stood the test of time. So finally, I’ve gotten to the subject of this post. I love Laurel’s recipe for Rice Lentil Pilaf and have been making it for years. It makes me feel virtuous and healthy with the added bonus that it tastes good. I think the hint of cinnamon does it for me. So take a page from the past and give this pilaf a try. Some things are meant to be repeated. Rebuilding another old house? Why in the world are we doing that again? Sometimes we don’t learn from the past. But I have learned from at least one past mistake . . . Pork is best when purchased from a store.

1/2 onion, chopped
2 Tbls oil
1 cup brown rice
1/4 cup lentils
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 1/2 cups water
1 Tbls tomato paste
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup golden raisins ( or dried cranberries )
1/2 cup slivered almonds
Saute onion in 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large saucepan until it is soft. Add rice and cook, stirring for several minutes. Mix tomato paste with water and cinnamon. Add this along with the lentils to the saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, and turn heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a baking dish with the remaining tablespoon of oil. Add the salt, nuts and raisins to the rice mixture and pour into casserole. Cover and bake the casserole for 20-30 minutes. Makes 6 servings.

Printable recipe

16 responses to “Rice Lentil Pilaf and Learning From the Past”

  1. Katy ~ says:

    I just loved your story and laughed out loud about your husband being paged! Oh my gosh, that is too funny.

    I’m going to copy this. It sounds positively wonderful.

    Maybe I’ll wear a peasant skirt; I think they’re coming back in style!

  2. Mary says:

    Such fun. I had great mental images as I read your post. I’m liking the pi;af recipe and will be trying it soon.

  3. Katy ~ says:

    Happy Mother’s Day!

  4. Penny, what a well written story. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about your life. The pig story is a gem. How nice for your son that he was raised in a special environment. I still have my Laurel’s Kitchen book and your pilaf sounds good.
    When we moved to the islands in the 1990’s we didn’t have electricity or city water or a phone but we weren’t exactly roughing it either. Had a sophisticated solar system that ran everything but the refrigerator, which was small by US standards and ran on propane. Solar wasn’t powerful enough for AC and we really missed that in the summer heat. Our house was very quiet – no appliances making noises at all. When we finally got city power the refrigerator would wake us up at night when it came on and we would say, “what is that noise?”
    Thanks for sharing the story about your house and life and for this Laurel’s recipe.

  5. Sara says:

    What a great story. I love the sound of the rice, I’m a big fan of lentils.

  6. Penny says:

    Katy, I think you would look good in a peasant skirt. Thanks for the M’day wishes.

    Mary, Try to have a mental image of this house done. LOL.

    Sam, Love hearing about your experiences with solar and the “noisy” refrigerator. Thanks for the complements. High praise coming from you.

    Sara, Thanks. This dish sounds like it would work for you. Love your blog.

  7. Natashya says:

    That’s so funny! I have always heard that pigs were smart.
    I have and love The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book, I should check out her other ones.
    Yummy pilaf, we are all about the legumes and rice these days.

  8. Rosabela says:

    Hi Penny,
    I loved reading your story about the old house. When I was a little girl, my grandfather in Italy used to raise pigs I remember them also trying to escape. But the homemade sausages were always a specialty.

    Great recipe! I would have never thought of adding cinnamon to rice pilaf. Yummy!

  9. Penny what a fantastic post. You are a talented writer; I could picture everything you were writing.

    The rice pilaf looks so good. My husband and children would love this, they love all things rice!

  10. Penny says:

    Natashya, I have the bread book too, but I highly recommend the Kitchen book.

    Rosebela, Thank you for visiting my blog. Your family history is so interesting and I love your blog.

    Katherine, You made my day! It’s the comments that keep me motivated to blog.

  11. Grace says:

    i’ve heard stories from my mom about the rascally pigs she grew up hating, and some chicken ones too. 🙂
    terrific pilaf–the lentils make it particularly appealing!

  12. Donna-FFW says:

    Ha.. You had me enthralled from the start of your post. You have fantastic writing skill and this dish looks fantastic!

  13. Lickedspoon says:

    I loved this post – the part about summoning your husband from work to recapture the errant pigs made me laugh out loud. I really like pilaf so I’ll definitely give this a go.

  14. Penny says:

    Grace, Pigs are smart. Chickens are not.

    Donna, Thanks for the kind words.

    Debora, Glad I made you laugh. Hope you like the pilaf.

  15. Shirley says:

    This is one of my favorite recipes too, I double it for a go-to potluck recipe. Got rid of my Laurel’s kitchen cookbook without filing the recipe as I thought I had–and found it here with your pig story. Who knows if you’re still out there somewhere, but Google thinks you are. (eerie music playing)

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