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Easy dinner recipes: Great lentil ideas for Gluten-Free Wednesday

It's Gluten-Free Wednesday. 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.

And 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.

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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!).

If you are sensitive to gluten, check all ingredients to make sure they are gluten-free before using, as many may contain trace gluten (such as spices, a number of which include flour as an anti-caking agent), and/or are produced in facilities that also process gluten-based products.

You can find the recipes below.

And for more ideas, click through our easy dinner recipes gallery and check out our Dinner Tonight page, devoted to recipes that can be made in an hour or less. Looking for a particular type of recipe? Comment below or email me at noelle.carter@latimes.com.

LENTILS WITH SAUSAGE

Total preparation time: 45 minutes

Serves 4 to 6

2 onions

2 cloves garlic

2 baking potatoes

3 cups water

1 1/4 cup dried lentils

1/2 pound sausage, such as kielbasa, chorizo, Italian or linguica, cut into 1/2-inch slices

Salt, pepper

1 bay leaf

1. Cut the onions in half from the stem top to the root bottom. Lay each half cut-side down on a chopping board. Slice each half horizontally into 1/4-inch slices. Then cut down vertically into thin slices, and finish by cutting down crosswise so you have many small pieces of onion. Set aside.

2. Cut the garlic into thin slices lengthwise. Turn the slices on their side and cut into lengthwise thin slices. Holding the slices together, cut into small pieces vertically. Set aside with the onion.

3. Peel the potatoes and cut into 1-inch chunks. Add them to the onions and garlic.

4. Place the water and lentils into a pot. Add the onions, garlic, potatoes, sausage and salt and pepper to taste. Tear the bay leaf into several pieces and add to the pot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

5. Remove the lid and poke a piece of potato; if tender, fish out a little of the lentils and taste for tenderness. If both the potatoes and lentils are tender, they are ready to serve. If either is still firm, simmer another 10 minutes. Most of the liquid will have been absorbed. Serve in bowls.

Each of 6 servings: 204 calories; 359 mg sodium; 19 mg cholesterol; 8 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 25 grams carbohydrates; 9 grams protein; 4.84 grams fiber.

QUINOA LENTIL SALAD WITH TOMATOES

Total time: 50 minutes, plus cooling and chilling times

Servings: 6

1 cup French green or brown lentils, sorted and rinsed

Salt and pepper

1/4 cup white wine vinegar or cider vinegar, plus more for drizzling

1 cup quinoa, rinsed and strained

1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1 large garlic clove, minced

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

1/4 cup fresh parsley

2 cups cherry or other little tomatoes, halved

1. Place the lentils in a large saucepan and fill with water to cover by 2 inches. Simmer until tender, about 20 minutes, then drain the lentils and transfer them to a medium bowl. Season the lentils with one-fourth teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper and drizzle over about 1 tablespoon of vinegar. Taste the lentils, and adjust the seasoning or vinegar, or both, if desired. Set aside the lentils to cool, stirring occasionally.

2. In a large saucepan, combine the rinsed quinoa with 2 cups water and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover the pot and reduce heat to a gentle simmer, cooking until the grain is soft and translucent, about 15 to 20 minutes. The water should be absorbed; if not entirely absorbed, drain any excess. Remove from heat and fluff the quinoa with a fork. Transfer the quinoa to a large bowl, drizzle about 2 tablespoons of oil on the grain and stir gently.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, one-fourth cup vinegar, one-half cup olive oil, one-fourth teaspoon salt and one-eighth teaspoon pepper. Taste and add additional seasoning if desired.

4. Stir the cooled lentils in with the quinoa in the large bowl. Stir in the dressing, then cover and chill the salad for at least one hour.

5. Just before serving, stir in the mint, parsley and tomatoes and check the seasoning. Drizzle with a bit more vinegar and oil.

Each serving: 387 calories; 13 grams protein; 40 grams carbohydrates; 10 grams fiber; 20 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 3 grams sugar; 202 mg. sodium.

LEMON LENTILS

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

Water

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt

1/2 lemon

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.

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