Today is going to be one of those days when I know that I am going to be busy. I also know that I do not have a meal planned for lunch and I am getting a late start. Often on days like this I fix a pan of lentils. I find that a lot of Americans do not know what lentils are and fewer eat them. One friend says she dislikes the texture, while another only eats beans that are sweet, and others simply just do not like the color.
Lentils come in various colors; red, yellow, brown, and green. While there may be a variance in flavor, for me it is not significant enough for me to pay the higher price for the fancy colors. Lentils are a legume so thus have all the nutrients of such. Unlike other legumes, they do not require a long soaking period to break out the phytic acid.
I usually soak my lentils for about 45 minutes before I cook them. This is more to speed up the cooking process than anything. Like all beans they need to be washed and rinsed well before being put on to soak. But soaking is not necessary so if you do not want to take the time just rinse and put them in your pan.
Most people who eat lentils usual follow some kind of Middle Eastern recipe, partly because this is where the recipes come from. Many people believe that the Red Stew that Esau served Jacob was a pot of red lentils, and it could very well have been.
While I usually vary the stuff I put into lentils there are some basic ingredients that I almost always use. Lentils (1lb), celery (1 stalk), carrots (2), onion (1 med), garlic (2-3 cloves) salt, paprika, and white pepper (to taste). Some times like today I will add tomatoes (1-2 cups) because I have some that need to be used up. And because it is chilly outside I will probably add in some fresh jalapeno and cummin (to taste) for a Mexican flavor. (Any time you use cumin, lime enhances the flavor.) Oh yes, because I have extra chicken stock I will cook them in stock but even that is not necessary yet it does seem to enhances the texture a bit so I highly recommend it. And because I am making this as a soup/one pot meal, I will add in some meat. This can be leftover beef or pork or ground beef or pork. Before I serve it I will toss in some scallions and parsley (only because I have some they add color and texture).
I would be remiss if I did not mention that my children love to top their lentils with sour cream…but we don’t have any today so that is just going to be too bad, so sad for them. That is kind of the way with lentils, you can add and subtract from the recipe and still come out with an inexpensive, relatively easy yet nourishing meal.
Before we started on GAPS we would often use lentils as burrito stuffing and found it quite agreeable. So they can be smashed up and made up like refried beans and are very good with salsa and sour cream on top.
If hummus is your thing, try making it out of lentils. You could take the above recipe and subtract the meat, grind it all up in a food processor toss in, extra garlic, and a little olive oil. But that should be a topic for another day….