Showing Lentils Some Love
Here, in the land of presto-magico food out of a box, there's a good chance you know someone who has never tried a hearty bowl of lentils (and like my mother, refuses a spoonful). This is something I do not understand.
Meanwhile in cultures around the globe, the lentil is the culinary humanitarian. It provides. It nourishes. It keeps us regular. It keeps heart attacks at bay.
In fact, one cup of cooked lentils contains about 18 grams of protein, second in the protein-award line to the soybean. It's loaded with fiber -- 15 grams, more than half of your daily requirement -- and is a folate boon for pregnant women.
If you plan to hit me with a "But I don't have time to cook lentils during the week; they require planning," I'm afraid you will lose this argument. Of all the members of the legume family (which also include beans and peas), lentils are the easiest to prepare and require the least amount of cooking time. Seriously.
First, no presoaking is required, as is the case with nearly every other legume. Just wash and go. Further, because of their small, flat, disc shape, lentils cook in less than an hour (about a fraction of the time it takes to cook a pot of dried black beans, for example). Translation: Perfect weeknight supper fare and formidable, portable leftovers for lunch at the office.
Below is just one of a zillion ways to prepare lentils, done here Syrian style (adas bi'l-hamid), with a hint of lemon and the sweet tangy notes of pomegranate molasses, a deep burgundy syrup made from pomegranate seeds (sold at Middle Eastern groceries such as Lebanese Taverna Market in Arlington and Mediterranean Bakery in Alexandria).
Maybe you know the lentil as adas or dal, heramame, lentejas, lentilles, lenticchia, mercimek or messer. Whatever you call it, share your favorite way to prepare the edible lens, and let's get a lentil revolution going!
Lentils Syrian Style
From "Little Foods of the Mediterranean" by Clifford A. Wright
2 tablespoons garlic, peeled (from about 8 large cloves)
1 ½ cups dried lentils (ordinary brown or green variety; I used French green lentils with great success)
4 tablespoons olive oil
5 Swiss chard leaves, washed, dried, stems removed and sliced into thin strips
¾ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves (about 1 bunch)
At least 1 cup water (or remaining lentil liquid)
1 tablespoon juice of a lemon
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (available at Middle East groceries)
Using a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic until pulverized. Alternatively, smash garlic with a chef's knife, then continue mashing it. You don't want minced garlic, which tends to burn.
Rinse lentils in a sieve, holding back stones or grit. Place lentils in a pot and cover with water. Bring up to a boil, then lower heat and cook lentils at a simmer, until tender, between 30 and 45 minutes. Check doneness after first 20 minutes, then every 10 minutes, as cooking time varies according to age of lentils. Drain and set aside; reserve cooking liquid if using. Salt lentils to taste. (KOD note: I've used one teaspoon of salt here and needed no additional salt at the end.)
Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the emptied, rinsed-out pot, over medium heat, then add chard until wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove chard; set aside.
Heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil and add garlic and cilantro, stirring constantly. Cook about 1 minute, reduce heat and return chard, plus lentils and liquid of choice. Stir to combine and cook on medium heat, about 10 minutes. Add lemon juice, pomegranate molasses and stir again.
Makes enough for six as a side dish.
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