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!


Gretchen Noelle

My love of food was cultivated early on by my family but has come alive while living in Peru. During the 12 years of living in Lima, Peru, I have also enjoyed numerous trips to other areas of the country. Here on Provecho Peru you will find Peruvian recipes in English, American favorites prepared overseas, news about Peruvian Cuisine and interesting tidbits about life in Peru.

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27 Responses

  1. Kevin says:

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

  2. glamah16 says:

    Wonderful words of wisdom. I have to try this technique.

  3. Karen says:

    Timeless and true. Great read.

  4. StickyGooeyCreamyChewy says:

    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.

  5. MyKitchenInHalfCups says:

    Gretchen that is perfect and beautiful wisdom. Life and it’s lessons do take time and are not obvious always.Lovely lentils.

  6. Emiline says:

    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.

  7. Aran says:

    Wonderful words and wonderful recipe Gretchen! You are getting better everyday, seriously.

  8. Jamie says:

    Gretchen,The lentils look wonderful. I am always looking for new recipes that have a lot of protein. Thanks so much!

  9. Cookie baker Lynn says:

    This looks like wonderful 2 Cor 1:4 lentil stew. Great analogy and yummy looking lentils.

  10. Susan says:

    Lovely post. May all of our lives (and stews) be full of flavor.

  11. Christina says:

    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.

  12. Erin says:

    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!

  13. farida says:

    Lovely post, so meaningful and true. The lentils look great!

  14. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) says:

    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.

  15. Nicole says:

    Mmmmm…I love cloves! I have some lentils in the pantry that are begging to be cooked! Thanks for the great recipe!

  16. Susan from Food Blogga says:

    Thank you for the unique recipe and insightful post, Gretchen. It’s really quite lovely.

  17. Passionate baker...& beyond says:

    Beautiful post Gretchen…touching indeed. Brilliant food for thought!

  18. Passionate baker...& beyond says:

    Beautiful post Gretchen…touching indeed. Brilliant food for thought!

  19. eatme_delicious says:

    Great post.

  20. Lore says:

    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 🙂

  21. katiez says:

    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!

  22. Chuck says:

    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!

  23. creampuff says:

    I have had lentils on the brain in a big way lately … love the recipe!

  24. Amy says:

    What a lovely post. 🙂

  25. Linda says:

    ive been meaning to make something with lentils but lacked a sound recipe. i owe you for this one.

  26. Jaime says:

    i love your post…and totally agree about what you are saying. interestingly enough, i’ve never had lentils before!

  27. alexandra says:

    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.

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