Holiday Lentil Loaf
- You’ll need a 5×9-in (14×23-cm) loaf pan (1.5-qt/1.4L capacity)
- Cook lentils: Cover them with water three times their volume, and add bay leaves. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Strain, reserving the broth for broths, soups, etc.; remove bay leaves.
- Broil pepper: Preheat broiler to medium with a rack 4 in (10 cm) from the heat source. Cut pepper in half, remove seeds and stem, and place, cut side down, on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Broil until the skin gets dark and flesh starts to soften, 10 to 15 minutes. If skin starts to burn but pepper is still not tender, place rack one level lower and continue to broil until soft. Place in an airtight container for about 10 minutes (this facilitates peeling). Peel and cut into ¼-in (0.6-cm) dice. Set aside. Note: Broil a few peppers at a time and reserve for salads, marinades, garnishes, etc. Sauté leek in olive oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add carrots, celery, and thyme to the leeks, and sauté until all veggies are tender, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
- Dry-roast almonds in a frying pan over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes (or in the oven while the peppers are roasting for 5 minutes). Grind fine with a bit of salt (to prevent from becoming a paste) in a food grinder. Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse. Use a silicone spatula to redistribute the mix a couple of times, and pulse again until mixture holds together but is not too mushy; avoid over-processing. Add a few spoons of lentil broth if too dry.
- Reset oven to bake at 375°F (190°C). Line the loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving 1 ½ in (3.8 cm) extra paper all around; this will allow you to hold onto the loaf and lift it when time to unmold (I call them “loaf wings”). Make a cut from each corner towards the center and fold them inward to create neater corners. Spoon the lentil mixture into the loaf pan, pressing lightly and evenly (this will yield firm slices). Cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until top and edges become firm, about 25 minutes.
- Scoop the Tomato Glaze over the top and smooth it. Bake for another 15 minutes, uncovered. To check for doneness, insert a knife in the middle of the loaf; it should come out dry. Let it rest for 20 minutes to firm up to facilitate slicing. Lift loaf out of the pan by carefully holding the paper “wings,” and transfer to a heat-resistant platter. Peel off the paper with the help of a cake lifter or a very thin plastic cutting board; the glazed side should be on top.
- Slice with a serrated knife. Keep warm.