The star here is the lentil-vegetable saute. We ate it with sausages for a hearty omnivorous dinner, but it would also be delicious over brown rice for a vegetarian meal. The fresh fennel adds a subtle sweetness -- add a 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds to the sauteing vegetables if you want to increase the anise flavor. The recipe is slightly adapted from Epicurious.com.
1 c French green dried lentils*
4 1/2 c water
1 fennel bulb, diced, with the fronds chopped
3 1/2 T olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 c broth
3 T chopped Italian parsley
1/2 t black pepper
1 T red-wine vinegar
1 T dijon mustard
1 lb sweet or hot Italian sausage links (I used turkey)
Bring lentils, water, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until lentils are just tender (~20 minutes).
Saute onion, carrot, and fennel bulb in about 3 tablespoons oil in a large saucepan over moderate heat until tender.
Drain the cooked lentils and stir into the vegetables (see, I told you to use a large pan!). Add broth and cook until heated through. Stir in parsley, vinegar, mustard, and 1 tablespoon fennel fronds. Salt and pepper to taste.
Meanwhile, prick sausages in a couple of places and cook until done -- I cooked them in a pan with a little red wine, but grilling would be good too. I served the lentils topped with sausage and sprinkled with remaining fennel fronds and a little romano cheese. A wonderful cold-weather dish.
*French green lentils are smaller than regular brown ones; they hold their shape much better when cooked and have a slightly different (I'd even say "better") flavor. They are wonderful to use in a salad or any dish where you want discernible lentils, not lentil-y mush.