Zesty Lentil Enchiladas with Bechamel

As you know, I love lentils.  Of the four varieties currently in my kitchen, the regular inexpensive brown ones are my favorite.

Once again, I have a new love for lentils in a totally different form, that’s not a soup, and not a salad.

Sauteeing the zucchini and onion.

Sauteeing the zucchini and onion.

 

The prepared enchilada ingredients: lentils, zucchini, wilted greens, and pepper boursin cheese.

The prepared enchilada ingredients: lentils, zucchini, wilted greens, and pepper boursin cheese.

 

To assemble: spread the cheese down the middle, and top with lentils, zucchini, and greens.

To assemble: spread the cheese down the middle, and top with lentils, zucchini, and greens.

 

Place in a large baking dish (or 2 small ones), and top with the bechamel and the final cheese.

Place in a large baking dish (or 2 small ones), and top with the bechamel and the final cheese.

 

The rosemary Asiago cheese used for the final topping.

The rosemary Asiago cheese used for the final topping.

With the egg added, the bechamel will puff up slightly. Bake till lightly brown.

With the egg added, the bechamel will puff up slightly. Bake till lightly brown.

 

 

For the filling, you will need:

  • 1 cup French green lentils
  • 3 cups water (or to cover by about 2 inches
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 bay leaf, optional
  • Zest of one orange
  • 1 9-ounce box of spinach, kale or other mixed greens (6 to 8 cups, loosely packed)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup diced onion or leeks
  • 1 medium or 2 or 3 small zucchini (squash is good, also)
  • Approximately 8 ounces of boursin-pepper cheese, or pepper goat cheese
  • 12 to 14 medium size (fajita size – 6 to 8-inches) flour tortillas

For the béchamel sauce, you will need:

  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons fresh ground black pepper, or white pepper (for those who don’t want to see the pepper)
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 large egg, beaten (optional)

 

Method:

Prepare the lentils:

  1. Rinse the lentils and pick through. The one time you don’t check the lentils is the one time you bite down on a rock (or a guest does), and ends up having emergency dental work.
  2. Place the lentils in a medium saucepan, and cover with water. Add the bay leaf and the salt (optional), and bring to boil.  Reduce to a simmer, and simmer for about 25 to 40 minutes.  If you are using regular brown lentils, watch carefully and test for doneness, as they will “blow-out” and lose their pretty shape.
  3. I used the French green lentils which hold their shape pretty well, and also soften well. Also good are the black beluga lentils, but they are much pricier and harder to come by.
  4. Once the lentils are done, set aside and let cool. Before draining, taste a few and make sure that they are soft enough for your taste. Then drain. Instead of draining the whole pot, I usually remove them using a slotted spoon to see what the yield is.  If the yield is too much, I have some of the juice to have a little soup.

Prepare the zucchini and the greens:

  1. While the lentils are cooking, prepare the zucchini and the sautéed greens. In a medium skillet, sauté the chopped onion or leek in the 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add the diced zucchini and sauté till tender.  When done, remove from the skillet to prepare the greens.
  2. In the same skillet that you cooked the zucchini in, add all of the spinach (or kale or swiss chard or escarole, whatever is available or in season. Saute the greens on medium till they start to wilt.  Do not overcook, as they will get more baking time in the oven.  This is just to wilt them to get them to fit in the enchiladas.  You can leave the greens in the skillet, or transfer them to a smaller bowl to assemble the enchiladas.  At this point, add the orange zest to the greens or to the lentils, and mix well.

Prepare the béchamel sauce:

  1. Prepare the béchamel by melting the butter in a medium saucepan. Using a whisk, add the flour, and cook, whisking constantly, until the butter & flour mixture are a very light nutty brown, only about 4 to 5 minutes.  Slowly add half the milk, whisking constantly to prevent lumping.  Add the remaining milk and whisk until smooth.  Add the salt, the pepper, and the nutmeg, and continue to cook for about 10 minutes until it comes to a boil and thickens.  To give the béchamel extra firmness, I added in one large beaten egg, by adding it in the tempering method.  Add a little bit of the warm béchamel to the egg (in a separate bowl), and mix using a fork very quickly.  Do not let the hot/warm béchamel sit on the eggs for more than a second, or you will get cooked eggs, and a lumpy béchamel.  When the sauce is fully incorporated into the egg, add to the sauce, and whisk quickly to incorporate the egg. Adding the egg is optional, but, for casseroles like this (or lasagna), I like the end result which is a little firmer.

Assemble the enchiladas and bake:

  1. To assemble the enchiladas, lay out about 6 soft tortillas (or as many as will fit on your workspace), and spread a few teaspoons of the boursin cheese down the middle of each one.
  2. Top with about ¼ to a 1/3 cup of the well-drained lentils.
  3. Add a few tablespoons of the sautéed zucchini, just enough to cover one layer.
  4. Top with a thin layer of the wilted greens.
  5. At this point, if you want to add more cheese (your choice), salt or pepper, do so before wrapping the enchiladas.
  6. Place the rolled enchiladas in a casserole dish or two (1 large or 2 small), seam side down, and pour the béchamel over the top of the enchiladas. Spread evenly with a spatula.
  7. Top with more a finishing cheese, such as Gruyere, Swiss, Parmesan, Romaso, Asiago, Butterkase, or any good melting cheese. I had some Rosemary Asiago that needed to be used up, and it was really good here.
  8. Bake the lentil enchiladas for about 35 to 45 minutes at 350 degrees, until the béchamel is puffy and lightly browned on top.
  9. After baking, the enchiladas do freeze well. Or, make them in two smaller casserole dishes, and freeze one after baking for the future.  To reheat the baked, frozen enchiladas, remove from the freezer 24 hours in advance, and reheat for 25 to 30 minutes at 350. Keep wrapped in foil to prevent drying out.  It will just take a little bit longer to bake from a completely frozen state.

My thoughts on these lentil enchiladas: Well, if you put béchamel on just about anything, I’m going to love it!  But, seriously, in an effort to clean up the fridge, I found an interesting way to use up several cheeses (the pepper boursin and rosemary asiago) for which I was stumped, especially the asiago.  The orange zest  in the enchiladas was a nice surprise in many bites, and complemented the béchamel and both cheeses very well.  When you assemble a lot of vegetables like this, it’s easy to undersalt each component.  Although not listed, I did lightly salt and pepper the zucchini, but not the greens.  Between both cheeses and the well-seasoned béchamel, this was a really flavorful dish.  I even got approval from the “man-club”, who was surprised that lentils (in just any form) could taste this good.  He had only had regular lentils, in the usual brown and drab lentil soup (for which I have many favorite versions!)

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