When paired with a simple salad, this deeply satisfying pie makes an excellent vegetarian main course. "It's remarkable how the combination of goat cheese and lentils tastes like lamb," Jerry Traunfeld says. The secret to achieving a perfect phyllo crust, he adds, is letting the dough defrost gradually in the refrigerator before assembling the pie, then slicing through the top layer of the crust before it bakes, so it won't crumble when you serve it.
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2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, cut into 1/3-inch dice
1 fennel bulb, cut into 1/3-inch dice
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/3-inch dice
2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
1 cup French green lentils
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 cups water
1/4 cup chopped mint
1 tablespoon chopped thyme leaves
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
8 ounces soft goat cheese
Freshly ground pepper
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
Fourteen 9-by-14-inch sheets of phyllo dough
How to Make It
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, fennel, red pepper and garlic and cook over moderately high heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lentils, fennel seeds and a pinch of salt. Add the water and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over low heat until the lentils are just tender, about 35 minutes. Drain the lentils in a strainer and let cool for 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375°. In a large bowl, mix the lentils with the mint, thyme and vinegar. Crumble in the goat cheese, season with salt and pepper and mix well.
Brush a 10-inch glass pie plate with melted butter. Lay 1 sheet of phyllo over the pan; tuck it into the pan and let the ends hang over the side. Brush the phyllo generously with butter. Repeat with 6 more phyllo sheets, rotating each one 45 degrees to create a circle of overhanging phyllo. Spread the lentil filling in the pan and top with the remaining 7 sheets of phyllo, buttering between each one, to make a top crust. Loosely roll up all of the overhanging phyllo to create a 1-inch wide border. Brush the border with butter.
Using a sharp knife, cut the pie into 8 wedges, cutting through the top layer of phyllo only. Bake the pie for about 1 hour and 40 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Transfer to a rack and let stand until cooled slightly, about 15 minutes. Cut the pie into wedges and serve hot, warm or at room temperature.
The pie can be baked up to 6 hours in advance.
As Traunfeld notes, the filling of this savory pie tastes strangely like lamb, and like lamb, it will pair well with a lightly gamey, spicy Syrah. The variety grows well in a number of wine regions around the world, from Australia (where it's known as Shiraz) to South Africa to California's Central Coast, one of the top sources.
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