- 1 head of garlic, cloves separated, divided
- 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for serving
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 small fennel bulb, chopped
- Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary
- ¾ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, plus more for serving
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cups of medium lentils
- 8 ounces feta, preferably in brine, brine reserved, cheese crumbled
- 4 large sprigs basil, plus leaves for serving
- 1 cup Kalamata olives, torn
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 4 2- cm-thick slices country-style bread
Slice 1 garlic clove in half crosswise and set aside; smash remaining garlic cloves with the flat side of a chef’s knife.
Heat 4 Tbsp. oil in a large pot over medium heated oven. Cook smashed garlic, stirring often, until golden, about 5 minutes. Add onion and fennel and season lightly with salt. Cook, stirring often, until onion is translucent and fennel and onion are browned around the edges, 8–10 minutes. Add lemon zest, rosemary, and ¾ tsp. red pepper flakes and cook, stirring often, until rosemary is very fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add lentils , the feta, a couple of pinches of salt, and 8 cups water and bring to a simmer. Partially cover pot, reduce heat to low, and gently simmer stew until beans are creamy and tender all the way through, 60–70 minutes.
Add basil and olives to stew, letting wilt slightly before adding more; simmer just until escarole is tender, about 3 minutes. (If stew is too thick, add more water to reach desired consistency.) Stir in lemon juice; taste and season with more salt if needed. Drain the mixture into a pot leaving all the lentils and veggies nice and firm.
Heat broiler. Drizzle 2 Tbsp. oil total over both sides of bread and place on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt. Broil until bread is golden and toasted, about 2 minutes per side. Let cool slightly, then rub with the cut sides of reserved garlic clove.
To serve, slice toast in half and divide among bowls;. Top with feta, basil leaves, and more red pepper flakes and drizzle with oil.