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Mar 31, 2020
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WINE WITH…Lentils and Rice and Spice

Bursting with favor and texturally very satisfying, this vegetarian recipe seems to please even devout meat eaters (skip the yogurt and tzatziki and it is a vegan dish).  The recipe’s separate elements can be made a few hours ahead of time then reheated and assembled just before serving.  You could accompany it with a colorful vegetable dish, but because it is hearty and filling on its own we usually serve it with nothing more than a simple green salad.

We offered tzatziki and yogurt for topping the dish and asked our tasters which they preferred.  The unanimous choice was the tzatziki.  Make your own tzatziki or buy it already prepared (stores such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe's for example sell excellent tzatziki).

Lentils and Rice and Spice

Serves 4-6

One cup brown lentils
1 cup olive oil (divided use)
½ cup minced cilantro (divided use)
½ cup white wine
2 teaspoons minced fresh marjoram (or 1 teaspoon dried)
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon coriander
2 teaspoons finely minced fresh ginger
3-4 cloves minced garlic
½-1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
3 grinds of black pepper
One cup basmati rice
½ cup white wine
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 red or yellow onion thinly sliced
Salt to taste
One fresh lemon
Tzadziki or plain yogurt

Place the lentils and ½ cup of olive oil in a generous pot and add the cilantro, saving out a little for garnish later.  Add ½ cup of water (or enough to completely cover the lentils) then stir in the marjoram, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, ginger, garlic and peppers. Cover the pot and simmer the lentils for about 15-20 minutes or until they have softened. Stir in the rice then add the wine and ½ cup water. Bring the mixture to a boil, stir the contents, cover the pan and turn off the heat, keeping the lid on the pan so that the rice will steam.

Meanwhile add the remaining ½ cup oil and the sliced onions to a sturdy skillet. Over medium-high heat stir the onions around until they begin to soften, adjusting the heat to keep them from burning. Add the minced jalapenos, stirring frequently, until the onions have nicely browned, about 5-7 minutes.

To serve, pour the lentil mixture into a serving bowl or divide it among individual bowls. Garnish with the onion/jalapeno mixture, squeeze a little fresh lemon juice over it and sprinkle on a little fresh cilantro.

*         *         *

Although most of us preferred red wines with this assertively spiced dish, it was also clear that there is a place at the table for sophisticated and balanced whites that offer purity of fruit.


Approx. Price


M. Chapoutier, Costières de Nîmes (Rhône Valley, France), “La Ciboise” 2017

 (Imported by Terlato Wines)



A blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Carignan this charming red wine manages to be both complex and delicate. It offers fresh fruit flavors and touches of spice that fill the palate in a way that seems to connect with all the tastes and textures the dish offers.


Bodega Garzón (Uruguay) Tannat Reserva, 2017 

(Imported by Pacific Highway Wines & Spirits)   




With its full flavors, mouth-watering tannins and firm texture this splendid Tannat from Uruguay proved a perfect partner for the dish’s rich textures, complex spice and gentle jalapeno heat. Its medium body likewise was just the right fit.

Herdade de Sāo Miguel, Alentejano (Portugal) 2014

(Imported by Quintessential Wines) 



A lavish red blend (20% Alicante Bouschet, 20% Touriga Nacional, 10% Aragonez, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon) that complemented the dish’s rich mélange of tastes and textures this generous Portuguese red also offered nice, cleansing acidity on the finish.

Liberty School (Paso Robles, California) Cabernet   Sauvignon 2016




Softly textured, this Cabernet’s flavors emphasize dark fruits accented by touches of vanilla and oak spice, all of which combine to offer an attractive piquancy to go with the dish.


Domaines Schlumberger, Alsace (France), Riesling “Les Princes Abbés” 2015

(Imported by Maisons Marques et Domaines USA Inc)



Light, dry and fresh, the fruit flavors here are concentrated but they do not   steal the show. Touches of minerality add textural interest that accords nicely with the feel of the lentils and rice on the palate. This classy Riesling is proof that white wine can be a beautiful accompaniment to the dish.