Love lentils? When it comes to adding substance to a dish, you can't go wrong with these little legumes. They're packed with vegetable protein, just one reason they're so popular in vegetarian dishes. But that's not all. Lentils cook up quickly (faster than other legumes like peas or beans), and they easily absorb flavors of other ingredients in a recipe, making them great team players. It's probably no wonder they've been popular since ancient times. Oh, and they're perfect for Gluten-free Wednesday.
Lentils with sausage: "Among a few staples that I keep in the cupboard, just in case a friend stays for supper, is a bag of lentils, one of the ingredients I always turn to when I need a last-minute dinner," writes cooking legend Marion Cunningham in the introduction to her recipe. This comforting one-dish meal comes together in 45 minutes using only a handful of ingredients.
Quinoa lentil salad with tomatoes: Or try pairing lentils with quinoa. Nutty quinoa, French lentils, fresh mint and parsley, a little garlic and some bright tomatoes make for a perfect summer salad, whether you're looking for a light main course or flexible side dish. (And if you don't tell, you're guests probably won't even suspect that it's also vegetarian.)
Lemon lentils: This recipe is from a 1994 story about Ismael Merchant, the film producer. While the recipe may take a little longer to make (it comes together in 1 1/2 hours), you can't beat the harmony of flavors, which only get better with time (it makes great leftovers!). You can find the recipe below.
Remember: While lentils are naturally gluten-free, check to make sure they are not processed in a facility that also processes gluten-based products, as this can contaminate them.
Total time: 1 1/2 hours | Serves 5 to 6
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons oil, divided
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 (2-inch) cinnamon sticks
1 pound masoor dal (orange lentils), picked over and rinsed
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped ginger root
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 small clove garlic, chopped
1/2 serrano chile or jalapeno, chopped, with seeds
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1. Heat 6 tablespoons of oil in a large, deep saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook until tender. Add the cinnamon, dal and ginger. Cook, stirring often, 10 minutes. Add the stock, 2 cups of water, the cayenne pepper and salt to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer 10 minutes. Squeeze the lemon over the lentils. Cook until the lentils begin to break down, 50 minutes. Stir often. Add up to 1 cup more water, if needed.
2. Heat the remaining oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, garlic, chile and bay leaves. Cook, stirring, until the onion is browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Add to the lentils and stir. Remove the bay leaves. Turn into a serving bowl and sprinkle with the cilantro.
Each of 6 servings: 626 calories; 312 mg. sodium; 0 cholesterol; 41 grams fat; 7 grams saturated fat; 49 grams carbohydrates; 19 grams protein; 12 grams fiber.