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  • The Chopping Blog

Learning to Love Lentils

JC
Posted by JC on Dec 13, 2019

 

One of my favorite foods to work with in unique ways is lentils. Whether they are red, green, black, yellow or brown, it makes no difference because each one has a unique flavor and texture. Lentils have a bad rep from years of people simply boiling them and serving them as if they were a bowl of grits. All it takes to turn this protein packed, nutrient dense little seed into a depth of flavor is a few additions and a little care.

Lentils

Lentils are native to Western and Central Asia and have been know as a food source as far back as 8,000BC in ancient Mesopotamia. They are one of the first domesticated crops and they are suspected to date back even further into prehistoric times. As a very frugal plant, lentils are known for growing in less than ideal conditions and require less water than many other legumes. The lentil is and always has been a debated food. Are they a poor man’s food or delicacy for the rich? Like most foods that we look at today, history gets confused and what may have been scraps for the poor, often becomes widely produced and even a delight to the wealthy years later.

Although lentils are exceptionally high in protein as many legumes are, they are still not quite a complete protein. Sadly, lentils are lacking in methionine and without more of this amino acid being supplied from other sources, like animal proteins or quinoa, you are missing out on their full potency. Aside from adding other food to supplement, many people are beginning to sprout their lentils. This is a great way to enhance the balance of your amino groups and often push the legume into a complete protein ratio. To sprout them you soak them for 8-12 hours then rinse and allow them to stay moist and cool for several days in an airtight container until you see the little sprouts poking out of your lentils. Although this is not a hard technique, it can be more than you really want to do at home. Thus, you can now purchase sprouted lentils quite easily at most stores.

Once you do get on the lentil train you would be surprised just how easy they are to work with. Many cultures still use lentils as a primary protein and recipes are very easy to find. You may find you enjoy lentils as a curry dish like often done in India or cooked with rice and served with fried raisins as often seen in Iran (called adas polo). Ethiopia is known for stewing lentils in various ways to be cooked until thickened and served with injera flatbread.

Currently it is becoming far more common to find a lentil salad in many high end restaurants through the US. My personal favorite is to saute my lentils with onions and garlic then cook them in vegetable stock with a red or yellow curry paste until they fall apart. I will sometimes leave this chunky or sometimes puree it to silken the soup, but either way it is a delight. I encourage you to challenge yourselves and go try cooking some lentils, as the cold weather creeps in, you won’t regret the warm rich flavors that lentils can bring to your kitchen.

Below you will find my recipe for my favorite lentil soup, and I hope you try it for yourself!

Curried Lentil Soup

1 pound red split lentils

3 quarts vegetable or chicken stock

1 large yellow onion, small dice

2 medium carrots, finely grated

2 lemons, zested and juiced

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tablespoon liquid amino acids or coconut aminos

1 Tablespoon smoky paprika

2 teaspoons porcini powder or umami blend

3 Tablespoons mild red curry paste

2 Tablespoons grapeseed oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

ingredients

1. Begin by heating your pan and cut the vegetables while you wait.

2. When you pan is hot, add the oil and 20 seconds later, add the onions.

onions-1

3. Saute the onions until they are translucent and then add the carrots and cook for 4-5 minutes.

carrots onions

4. Add the lentils and toast until they smell like nuts.

lentils

5. Add all of the remaining ingredients except the stock and cook the spices and garlic for 1 minute.

lentils garlic spices

6. When the pot is fragrant, stir in the stock and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot and allow this to simmer for 40 minutes.

adding stock

7. Adjust the final seasoning and choose whether you would like to puree or not. This soup is wonderful garnished with a little Greek yogurt and fresh cilantro.

lentil soup

We'll be working with lentils in our New Year's Eve: Festa Italiana class on December 31. Join us either at The Chopping Block at the Merchandise Mart for this hands-on feast which includes Rosemary Lentils with Wilted Leeks and Duck Confit among many other fabulous dishes:

  • Arugula Salad with Crispy Prosciutto, Pears, Hazelnuts and Balsamic
  • Herbed Flatbread with Grapes, Gorgonzola and Pancetta
  • Crispy Sautéed Duck Breast with Red Wine-Currant Glaze
  • Roasted Broccolini with Toasted Pine Nut Gremolata
  • Rosemary Lentils with Wilted Leeks and Duck Confit
  • Torta Caprese (Dark Chocolate Flourless Cake with Almonds) with Amaretto Whipped Cream

Already have plans for New Year's Eve? We're also offering this class on Monday, December 30 at the Mart!

See our New Year's Eve events

 

Topics: soup, lentils, soups, Recipes

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