By Barbara Beltrami
Since it’s the New Year, since many of us are determined to counter the damages of holiday bingeing, since lentils are considered one of the five most healthful foods in the world and since they’re also inexpensive, I’m going with them for this first column of 2021. When I went to the internet to find out why they’re considered so healthful, I was quite impressed by what I found. Not only are they rich in protein and fiber, but they’re also rich in iron and vitamin B1. Note: Because the cooking times of lentils vary, I cannot give exact numbers Figure on anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.
Lentil, Kale and Goat Cheese Salad
YIELD: Makes 4 servings
1 1/2 cups black or green lentils, soaked in cold water overnight or for several hours
4 scallions, white and green parts separated, and sliced
4 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1/3 to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup unsalted peanuts, almonds, walnuts or cashews, chopped
1 tablespoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 pound or one large bunch lacinato kale, washed, de-stemmed, chopped and massaged to soften
6 ounces crumbled goat cheese
1 cup pitted, coarsely chopped black olives
Coarse salt to taste
Cook the lentils in boiling salted water until al dente. Do not overcook. In a small skillet combine the white parts of the scallions, the garlic, three wide strips of lemon peel and the olive oil. Cook over medium heat, stirring a few times, until garlic starts to brown and lemon peel curls, about 3 minutes. Add nuts, cook and stir frequently another 3 minutes; remove from heat and stir in cumin and pepper flakes.
Strain mixture into a small bowl; discard lemon peel and garlic but reserve oil; transfer mixture to a large plate and spread out. Sprinkle with salt, let sit until cool. In a large bowl combine kale, goat cheese, olives and green parts of scallions. Drain lentils and add to mixture. Toss with reserved cooled oil, juice of the lemon and salt to taste. Serve immediately with pita or flat bread.
YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large leek, cleaned and sliced thin
1 cup chopped onion
1 large celery rib, cleaned and sliced thin
2 carrots, peeled and diced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
7 cups chicken, beef or veg. broth
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cups green or brown lentils
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
In large saucepan heat oil over medium heat. Add leek, onions, celery, carrots and garlic. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook, stirring frequently until vegetables are golden, about 20 to 30 minutes.
Add broth, thyme, bay leaf, lentils and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cover again; cooks until lentils are al dente; remove and discard bay leaf. Stir in vinegar and serve immediately with rustic bread and a green salad.
Baked Lentils with Chorizo
YIELD: Makes 6 servings
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 large frying pepper, seeded, chopped
2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound lentils cooked al dente in salted water
One 14-ounce can diced tomatoes with their juice
1 pound chorizo sausage, cut into 1 1/2 inch slices
Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease a large casserole or Dutch oven. Warm oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add onion, celery, pepper, garlic and salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion and celery are translucent, pepper is a little soft, and garlic starts to brown; remove and discard garlic. Combine mixture with lentils and tomatoes in prepared casserole or Dutch oven and lay chorizo on top. Halfway through cooking, turn sausages. Bake until mixture is bubbly and sausages are brown on all sides, about 30 to 40 minutes. Serve hot with rice and a green vegetable or salad.