I only get to eat lentils on New Year's Eve in Italy, making that once a year or twice if there are leftovers from New Year's dinner. It's not that I don't like them that they only make an annual trip to my dining table. In fact, I actually like them. This past New Year, I cooked cotechino, a stuffed pig trotter and lentils from Santo Stefano di Sessanio, an old village in the mountains of Gran Sasso d'Abruzzo. It's home of one of the best lentils in Italy. These lentils come from an old and rare species that are grown at around 1200 m. above sea level which makes the taste superior.
While staying there, I tried the lentil soup from a very basic restaurant that had very good reviews. The place was just like any rural domestic kitchen emanating simplicity. The lentil soup itself was straight to the point but so good. I bought some of their lentils to try cooking them myself.
With the rest of the lentils that I bought, I thought of combining it with fish, which is the red mullet. I cooked both sides of the fish fillet on a pan that I oiled with extra virgin olive oil. I think its flavor was heightened with this kind of cooking.
Santo Stefano di Sessanio
Santo Stefano di Sessanio is a medieval town located in the Gran Sasso of Abruzzo. It is considered one of the most beautiful old villages in Italy as ascertained by an Italian club appropriately called I Borghi Piu' Belli d'Italia (The Most Beautiful Villages of Italy). The town is built on white limestone and the houses covered with clay tiles. The area is very small that it can be visited on foot. The cobblestoned streets, alleys and arches maintain the ancient ambiance. Its history dates back to the Roman times with the name Sessanio derived from Sextantio, a small Roman settlement near the present-day town.
Lentils With Red Mullet (Lenticchie con Triglie)
- 1 cup lentils
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 clove garlic, halved
- 2 salted anchovies
- 2 - 3 cups water
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 6 - 8 small red mullet, filleted
- 1 medium tomato, diced
- Sautè the garlic & anchovies on medium fire. When garlic starts to color, add the carrot, tomato & bay leaves. Cook for about 10 minutes.
- Add the lentils. Add hot water until it covers the lentils. Cook for 20 minutes covered. Stir once in a while. If it's drying up, add hot water. Add white wine and put up the flame. Put it back down when alcohol has evaporated.
- Cook for another 20 minutes or until they become soft.
- Oil another skillet. Cook the mullet for about 2 minutes each side. Sprinkle with salt & pepper.
- Serve the lentils with the mullet on top. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.