I took my young friend Rebecca to Huckleberry Café in Santa Monica for brunch, and we couldn’t resist 2 items on the menu: the poached eggs smothered in a savory lentil and chard ragout, and fried eggs sitting atop quinoa tossed with market vegetables. Not wanting to waste a drop of the lentil stew, we spooned the last bits over the remaining quinoa, and the mixture was a winner. Rebecca, who is attending culinary school, was curious about what gave the lentil ragout its rich flavors, and we decided to try to recreate the recipe together.
I am a big fan of both quinoa and legumes as satisfying, gluten-free staples. Because of their complex tastes, intriguing textures, and superior nutritional values they make unexpected but excellent accompaniments to eggs. Quinoa creates a toothsome base for fried or poached eggs, and poached eggs nestled in legume stews have become a favorite Sunday breakfast.
Soon after Rebecca arrived at my house this weekend, we chopped onions and sautéed them slowly to develop sweetness. Rebecca was curious to taste the fennel I had in the fridge, and liked its subtle licorice flavor enough to suggest adding it and carrots to the ragout, even though neither were in the dish at Huckleberry. Once the vegetables started to caramelize, we added plump, canned San Marzano tomatoes, chosen for their supple texture and intense tang; chicken broth, for another layer of richness (vegetable broth would be good too); and lentils; and let the stew simmer until the lentils were yielding. We finished off the dish with chopped silver chard from my garden.
The ragout doesn’t have to be eaten as soon as it is ready, and that gave us time to make quinoa scented with fresh basil as a bed for the lentils and eggs. Both these dishes are forgiving, and so we took their photo for the blog before serving them to Steve, his son Ethan, and Rebecca’s sister Annakate (Ethan and Annakate are dating) for lunch after our morning of experimentation.
I had picked up fresh sugar snaps for Rebecca to sample. She wasn’t a fan until we whipped together a quick dip—yogurt, extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, and grated lemon zest (Rebecca’s perfect addition). We liked the dip so much; we spooned it over the final assembly.
Poached Eggs with Lentil and Chard Ragout
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1½ large onions, chopped
- 3 carrots, chopped
- ½ fennel blub, trimmed and chopped
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 28- oz can San Marzano tomatoes, with juices
- 5 cups chicken or vegetable broth, plus more as needed
- 1½ cups brown lentils, picked over
- 1 tablespoons minced fresh thyme, plus more for garnish
- Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 cups chopped fresh chard leaves, about ½ large bunch
Quinoa with Basil (see recipe below)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons vinegar
- 4 to 8 eggs
- Heat the oil in a heavy large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onions, carrots, fennel, and bay leaves and sauté until the onions begin to brown (caramelize), about 20 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, 5 cups of broth, lentils, and 1 tablespoon thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the lentils are tender, stirring occasionally and thinning with more broth as needed, 30-45 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare the quinoa (see recipe below).
- Season the lentil ragout to taste with salt and pepper. Add the chard and simmer until wilted, about 5 minutes. Add more broth to thin to a thick ragout if needed. Cover to keep warm.
- Prepare the eggs: For 4-6 eggs use 1 skillet, for more eggs use 2 skillets. Fill 1 or 2 large, deep skillets ¾ full with salted water and bring to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon vinegar to each skillet. Break an egg into a cup, and then slide the egg into the water. Repeat to add the remaining eggs to the skillet. Bring the water back to a simmer and cook gently until the whites are set, about 2 minutes.
- Divide the quinoa among 6 plates. Top each with some lentil ragout. Using a slotted spoon, transfer 1 or 2 eggs to each plate. Top with yogurt if desired and sprinkle with additional thyme and serve right away.
Quinoa with Basil
- 1½ cups quinoa
- Coarse kosher salt
- ¼ cup minced fresh basil
- 1½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Place the quinoa in a medium saucepan. Rinse with cold water, drain. Repeat rinsing 3 more times, and then drain the quinoa and return to the pan. Add 2¼ cups water and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until all the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let stand at least 5 minutes before serving. Mix in the basil and oil and season to taste with salt.