Lentils Three Ways

Lentils Three WaysIf you’ve recently grabbed some beans for your pantry, chances are you probably reached for lentils. I know I did. But, I will admit I don’t make lentils very often. If I do it’s usually the little green French ones that I serve with salmon. I’m not a habitual lentil consumer. But, now I have these lentils and I have been looking for new ways to use them.

Thoughts of lentils make me turn to Indian cuisine for advice—which makes sense. The pervasive use of lentils in Indian cooking makes them the experts. So, I turned to my library of Indian cookbooks and naturally found some answers.

If you have even a small affinity for Indian food I would recommend obtaining a Madhur Jaffrey Indian cuisine cookbook. She has many. She is also widely considered an expert on all things in the Indian culinary world. I found the following recipes in her World Vegetarian cookbook. The first is a basic recipe for lentils that can be eaten as is or used as a base for other recipes. So if you’re sitting there wondering what to do with your stash of lentils give these options a try.

Lentils with Onion and Garlic
Adapted from World Vegetarian by Madhur Jaffrey
Yields 4 servings

The addition of a dollop of dairy (either butter in the first recipe or yogurt in the second two) adds a smoothness to the normally slightly dry texture of lentils. 

1 cup dried green lentils
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely sliced
1 whole dried hot red chile
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Lemon wedges for serving
Butter for serving

Pick over the lentils and wash them in several changes of water and drain.

Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the sliced onions and fry. After they being to soften lower the heat and cook slowly, stirring often, until the onions are golden brown and crisp. Remove the onions from the pan with a slotted spoon and set them to drain on a paper towel.

Add the chili and garlic to the oil in the pan. Stir for a few seconds and add the lentils. Then add 2-1/2 cups of water. Bring the liquid to a boil. Turn heat down to low and partially cover the pan. Cook gently until the lentils are tender (about 30 to 35 minutes). Remove the chili. Add the salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with crispy onions on top and lemon wedges and pats of butter, if using.

Variation #1
Lentils Topped with Gingery Spinach and Yogurt
Yields 4 servings

3 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/4 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into very fine strips
20 ounces fresh baby spinach
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 recipe Lentils with Onions & Garlic (see above)
Plain Whole Milk Yogurt

Heat the oil in large sauté pan over high heat. When it is hot, add the ginger and stir until the ginger just starts to brown (about 20 to 30 seconds). Add in the spinach, salt, and cayenne (if using). Stir and cook until the spinach has wilted completely (about 4 to 5 minutes). Turn off the heat.

To serve layer the lentils on the bottom of a plate or flat soup bowl. Top with the spinach followed by a large dollop of the yogurt. Sprinkle the fried onions (from the base recipe above) on top. Serve hot.

Variation #2
Lentils topped with Garlic Mushrooms
Yields 4 servings

1 pound white mushrooms
1/4 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
Fresh Ground Black Pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 recipe Lentils with Onion and Garlic (see above)
Plain whole milk yogurt

Wipe the mushrooms off gently with a damp cloth and slice lengthwise into thin slices

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over high heat. When hot, add the garlic and give it a quick stir. Then add the mushrooms. Stirring all the time, fry until the mushrooms have wilted. Add the salt, pepper, and cayenne, if using. Stir in the parsley and turn off the heat.

Serve the dish on a large plate or flat soup bowl by layering the lentils at the bottom topped by the mushrooms and a large dollop of the plain yogurt. Sprinkle the fried onions (from the base recipe above) on top.

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