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Imparting Flavor

My day was full of unexpected twists today. Through a series of circumstances, I was reminded that sometimes we go through difficult things in our lives so that we learn things. I have seen this before in my life and today was reminded of this very lesson. The difficult circumstances help us to learn, help us to help others and make us more sensitive to the same situation in the lives of others.

When I first saw this recipe, I could not understand why the onion would be placed among the lentils whole instead of being chopped up and sauteed first. Why would it be stuck with cloves? What was the purpose?

The interesting thing is that the clove-stuck onion seems to be what gives the whole dish flavor. The lentils are infused with the tastes and flavors of the onion and the cloves without them actually being part of the final dish. Mind you, this is not a 10 minute dish. Flavoring food tastes time and takes patience; which allows the intermingling of the flavors of the foods being cooked and the cooking liquid.

I think we are similar. We are stuck, pierced with difficulties. We cannot help but wonder why? What is the purpose? But, I think those are the very things that “flavor” us. The combination of those difficult circumstances and how we choose to respond allow us to later help others. Being “stuck” with difficulties results in the right “flavor” at the right time.

Have you experienced hard times? Have you gone through difficulties? Those are the very things you can help others with; areas you can encourage others along. Maybe you are facing tough times now. Maybe you feel like your “onion” has been stuck with “cloves,” but remember after time, that will be exactly what gives flavor to your life and allows others to be helped, encouraged and blessed.

Today, some friends needed help. They are facing difficulties and needed direction. Interestingly enough, a similar season in my life is just ending. One which today allowed me to help them, give them direction, and hopefully encourage them. I was thankful today, more than ever, that the last year and half have been full of the trials I have experienced because it gave me the perspective I needed today to help someone else.

Remember that as you stick cloves into an onion to make these delicious braised lentils, a dish that has been made in my kitchen countless times. Enjoy!

Braised Lentils

Yield: Makes 4 1/2 cups

Source: Adapted from Cooking Light


  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 small onion, peeled
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 1/2 cups of baby brown lentils
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of ground ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups of vegetable broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt


  1. Insert cloves into onion.
  2. Combine onion, water, lentils, oil, ginger, garlic, pepper, bay leaf and vegetable broth in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes or until lentils are tender.
  3. Remove onion and bay leaf with a slotted spoon; discard. Stir in salt; cook 2 minutes.

I served these with steamed green beans and Tree Tomato Hot Sauce. Delicious!



27 Responses to “Imparting Flavor”

  1. That is an interesting way to add some onion and clove flavour to a dish. The lentils look good.

    Posted by Kevin | April 10, 2008, 7:34 pm
  2. Wonderful words of wisdom. I have to try this technique.

    Posted by glamah16 | April 10, 2008, 8:24 pm
  3. Timeless and true. Great read.

    Posted by Karen | April 10, 2008, 10:26 pm
  4. Gretchen, what a lovely and insightful post. It reminds me of a very inspirational poem that someone gave me at a time when I felt hopeless. It saved me and I keep it on my refrigerator door to this day to remind me that out of adversity, comes strength.Many years ago, I found a recipe for chicken soup that called for a whole onion studded with cloves. I thought it was odd, but I tried it. That was the best chicken soup ever. Now, I always put an onion with cloves in my soups.

    Posted by StickyGooeyCreamyChewy | April 10, 2008, 10:32 pm
  5. Gretchen that is perfect and beautiful wisdom. Life and it’s lessons do take time and are not obvious always.Lovely lentils.

    Posted by MyKitchenInHalfCups | April 10, 2008, 11:52 pm
  6. Hmm, I’m sorry about the difficult times in your life. I’m glad that you are getting through it, and helping other people as well. I have to remind myself that I need to help other people if I can. I think selfishly sometimes.

    Posted by Emiline | April 11, 2008, 1:01 am
  7. Wonderful words and wonderful recipe Gretchen! You are getting better everyday, seriously.

    Posted by Aran | April 11, 2008, 4:22 am
  8. Gretchen,The lentils look wonderful. I am always looking for new recipes that have a lot of protein. Thanks so much!

    Posted by Jamie | April 11, 2008, 8:34 am
  9. This looks like wonderful 2 Cor 1:4 lentil stew. Great analogy and yummy looking lentils.

    Posted by Cookie baker Lynn | April 11, 2008, 9:36 am
  10. Lovely post. May all of our lives (and stews) be full of flavor.

    Posted by Susan | April 11, 2008, 9:49 am
  11. Gretchen, your posts are a delight to read. You know those times where you are going through something, then you happen to read about it in a place you would least expect? Well, I never expected to find that in a foodie blog, but I’m glad I did! Thanks. The recipe looks equally as good. I love lentils, though I’ve never thought about braising them before (I may have seen this recipe in CL, but I can’t remember). I particularly like how the lentils retain their shape.

    Posted by Christina | April 11, 2008, 11:32 am
  12. What a wonderful post to read! I think that the difficult times in our lives always teach us something, and hopefully we come out stronger and wiser. I hope that you get through whatever difficulties you are facing and that it will strengthen you. I think I remember seeing this recipe in Cooking Light- it looks delicious. I will have to try it soon!

    Posted by Erin | April 11, 2008, 12:57 pm
  13. Lovely post, so meaningful and true. The lentils look great!

    Posted by farida | April 11, 2008, 1:48 pm
  14. The onion stuck with cloves is a traditional way to flavor things like soup stock and stew, when you don’t want the clove to stay in the soup. As for the symbolism, well, it’s food for thought.

    Posted by Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) | April 11, 2008, 3:51 pm
  15. Mmmmm…I love cloves! I have some lentils in the pantry that are begging to be cooked! Thanks for the great recipe!

    Posted by Nicole | April 11, 2008, 6:03 pm
  16. Thank you for the unique recipe and insightful post, Gretchen. It’s really quite lovely.

    Posted by Susan from Food Blogga | April 11, 2008, 6:56 pm
  17. Beautiful post Gretchen…touching indeed. Brilliant food for thought!

    Posted by Passionate baker...& beyond | April 12, 2008, 10:14 am
  18. Beautiful post Gretchen…touching indeed. Brilliant food for thought!

    Posted by Passionate baker...& beyond | April 12, 2008, 10:14 am
  19. Great post.

    Posted by eatme_delicious | April 12, 2008, 1:16 pm
  20. I’ve come to realize very early in my life that everything we go through happens with a purpose and in time it serves us well. My husband doesn’t like when he can distinguish small onion pieces/puree in a dish but likes its flavour so the onion studded with cloves its a great problem solver for me :)

    Posted by Lore | April 12, 2008, 2:17 pm
  21. A clove studded onion does add lots of wonderful, often subtle flavors. I love the idea of putting it with lentils….I love lentils!!!Great photo of the barbs!

    Posted by katiez | April 12, 2008, 2:43 pm
  22. I love lentils! We have a large East Indian community here and I have fallen in love with there food. Lentils are a big part of the dishes. Great Job!

    Posted by Chuck | April 12, 2008, 6:00 pm
  23. I have had lentils on the brain in a big way lately … love the recipe!

    Posted by creampuff | April 12, 2008, 8:11 pm
  24. What a lovely post. :)

    Posted by Amy | April 13, 2008, 8:16 am
  25. ive been meaning to make something with lentils but lacked a sound recipe. i owe you for this one.

    Posted by Linda | April 13, 2008, 8:43 pm
  26. i love your post…and totally agree about what you are saying. interestingly enough, i’ve never had lentils before!

    Posted by Jaime | April 14, 2008, 2:31 pm
  27. Sitting before my computer with my bowl of braised lentils. Very good, and quite different than a similarly spiced mid-eastern stew, Mujadra. Thanks for a good recipe, a keeper, and the other thoughts in your post.

    Posted by alexandra | May 13, 2008, 7:23 pm

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