February 2011

Creativity Archive

Lentils Are My Chicken

They are great in stir-fry dishes and salads and as soup and they are even tasty served over rice or mashed potatoes. Depending on the dish, they can be mixed with spices to create dishes that are tangy, sweet, savory, or spicy. They are just as tasty baked or boiled, and just like chicken, they are a great source of healthy protein. So next time you need a quick, comforting meal, try something with lentils.

There are green lentils, brown lentils, yellow lentils, red lentils, and even black or beluga lentils. I am no lentil connoisseur and I cannot claim to have tried every kind there is. In fact, more often than not, I seem to go for brown lentils. Perhaps it is because they were the only kind I could get in Morocco, and they seem to be the easiest to find at the store now. Or, perhaps I am just a creature of habit. Either way, I have tried brown lentils many, many ways and I have yet to find a way I did not like. In fact, I have stopped using recipes when I cook them, and their flavor is mild enough to risk playing with spices depending on my mood.

In a recent mood, I wanted something savory; so, I created this:

Brown Lentil Stew with Delicata SquashBrown Lentils with Delicata Squash

It is a thick, brown lentil stew with roasted Delicata Squash and sautéed yellow bell-pepper and onions. It took about 15 minutes to prepare and an hour or so to cook. Simple and delicious.

Since I wanted the lentils to be thick, I knew they needed to boil about an hour. You could use canned lentils, but it is far cheaper and just as easy to use dry lentils. So, after sorting and rinsing them, I put two cups of them into a heavy soup pot with 3-4 cups of hot water and another 3-4 cups of my homemade, frozen vegetable stock. I always make my stock strong to save freezer space and that is why I dilute it with water now. (If your stock is not strong, then skip the water and double the broth amount.)

While the pot was working on boiling, I added a bay leaf, salt, pepper, spoonful of cumin, and a 1/2 tsp or so of cinnamon. Then, I covered the pot, and once it came to a full boil, I turned it down to simmer for an hour.

The roasted Delicata squash couldn't have been easier. Once the squash was cleaned and cut into thin slices, I tossed the pieces with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Then, they went on a cookie sheet and into the oven which was preheated at 375 degrees. After ten minutes in the oven, I flipped the pieces and let them roast for another 10 minutes before taking them out to cool. They were so sweet and tasty that I had to be careful not to eat them all before the lentils were done.

After stirring the lentils a few times over the next 30 minutes, they were done too. Once the skin falls off the lentils and they start to disintegrate, they are perfect for a thick stew like this.

The first time I ate the lentils with squash pieces on top and was beyond happy with my meal. However, I made a big pot and after a few bowls like that, I decided to add the sautéed bell pepper and onion to mix it up a bit. That was a great addition.

My new challenge is to see how many different ways lentils can be made without a lot of fuss. More recipes are on the way.

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