Learn to Love Lentils
By Dana Jacobi
If the only lentil dish you’ve made is from the greenish, beige-brown lentils sold in a plastic bag, it is time you discovered more ways to prepare this exceptional legume.
I call lentils exceptional because, like beans, they are a good and modestly priced source of both protein and fiber. But for variety, lentils vie with beans. Food markets around the Mediterranean and in the Middle East offer a kaleidoscope of black, deep marble green, red, orange and yellow lentils, each with its own texture and flavor.
Firm and almost sweet black beluga or caviar lentils and the nearly round Le Puy lentils each make great lentil salad. Boil the lentils with a halved garlic clove, half a carrot and some parsley sprigs until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain lentils, discard vegetables and toss warm lentils with finely chopped shallots and celery, red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.
Split red lentils make a lovely fat-free soup quite different from the brown, smoky lentil soup most of us know. Simmer a cup of red lentils with 4 cups vegetable broth, 1-2 teaspoons curry powder and chopped onions until the lentils fall apart, about 20-30 minutes. Whirl soup in a blender until smooth, and serve garnished with chopped fresh tomatoes and cilantro.
Currently, my favorite lentil dish is this combination of Egyptian-style lentils served topped with zhug, the brilliant hot sauce Israelis use like salsa. The lentils are also delicious on their own, while the hot sauce also goes with seafood, on eggs, and alongside nearly anything else.
Lentils with Mediterranean Hot Sauce
Place cilantro and garlic in bowl of food processor and pulse to chop coarsely. Add chile peppers, parsley, cumin, black pepper, coriander and salt, and pulse to chop. With motor running, drizzle in oil and whirl until mixture resembles pesto. Transfer hot sauce to a container, cover, and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to let flavors meld. This sauce keeps in refrigerator for up to 3 days. Makes 1/3-1/2 cup hot sauce.
In saucepan, combine lentils with cold water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook until lentils are tender, 40-60 minutes. Transfer cooked lentils to mixing bowl.
Meanwhile, heat oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring often, until browned, about 5-7 minutes. Add contents of pan to warm lentils. Add tomato and mix with fork to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve warm lentils and pass hot sauce in separate bowl or mix hot sauce into lentils.
Makes 4 servings.
Per serving (with 4 tsp. hot sauce): 210 calories, 8 g total fat (1 g saturated fat),
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