This is an excellent pantry dinner, something substantial that comes together fairly easily on a day when grocery shopping feels like a chore but the fridge is bare. In my house, the cupboard tends to be stocked for evenings such as this and pasta of some kind, lentils and onions are all pantry staples.
I was inspired to make this as I had just read a memoir where the author described his grandmother's Harak Osbao, a Syrian mainstay also referred to as "burnt fingers" because it is apparently so delicious that one sticks one's fingers in the top of the dish to grab a taste before even taking the time to get cutlery. The description in the book sounded so delicious that I used the flavor profile described to come up with this Syrian inspired pasta dish with lentils using what I had on hand rather than going the full-on authentic route.
1 portion pasta of your choice (very subjective)
1/3 cup brown lentils
1/2 small white or yellow onion, peeled and cut into thin half moons
1 clove garlic crushed but not peeled
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp nipitella or dried mint
2 tsps olive oil
1 tsp pomegranate molasses or 1/2 tsp tamarind paste (if you have neither, you could use balsamic vinegar with a splash of lemon juice. It won't taste exactly the same, but will add the tanginess needed.)
Salt to taste
Put the lentils, garlic clove in a pan and cover by several inches with water. Bring t a boil and cook until done, by this I mean tender but with a bit of bite left not mushy. This will take about 15 or 20 minutes.
While the lentils are cooking, cook the pasta in salted water according to the directions on the package.
In a small frying pan caramelize the onions in one teaspoon of the olive oil. Do this over low heat and take your time. Stir from time to time until the onions are meltingly soft and golden brown. Remove to a dish and stir in the pomegranate molasses.
Heat the remaining oil in a separate pan and, as soon as it shimmers, add the dried mint and some salt. Heat for about 20 seconds until the mint is fragrant and remove from the heat.
By this time, the pasta and the lentils should be ready; drain them together in a colander and tip into a serving dish, removing the garlic clove and the bay leaf as you do.
Pour in the mint oil and toss well to combine before garnishing with the onions.