Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Lentil, The Humble Hero

I talk a lot about lentils being a life saver if you are broke, and need to eat, so I figured I would offer up some uses I've picked up for lentils. Lentils are one of my favorite legumes, because they are easy to find, and inexpensive whether buying from bulk bins or in a bag. There are of course red lentils, and also French lentils, which are more expensive, and harder to find. So when I talk about lentils, I am usually talking about plain old green, or brown lentils.
First I will start out with soup. A carrot, onion, and garlic are all you need with some lentils to make a basic, but delicious soup. And you can switch it up so many ways based on other veggies you have, and adding grains, or pasta, and different spices. This is where it comes in handy to buy spices in bulk, so you can afford to have a variety of flavors. I sometimes add a little curry, and garam masala, other times fennel seed, oregano, and crushed red pepper. I always add turmeric to my lentil soup, as turmeric is very good for you. Anyway, I have eaten more lentil soup in my life than I can even recall, no joke, and I'm not sick of it yet, because I always switch it around. And one cup of dry lentils, plus a little veg will make a lot of soup. A little tablespoon of tomato paste totally switches up the flavor too.
Lentil Joe's are another favorite. My all time favorite recipe that I have made so often I have it memorized is from Veganomicon. It is so flavorful, the addition of mustard is a must in my opinion. The recipe makes a lot, so if you have a lot of leftovers, you can make quesadilla's with or without nutritional yeast and vegan cheese, leftovers are great on a baked potato, with a sprinkling of nutritional yeast, and hot sauce. I once had leftover brown rice, and leftover Joe, so I combined them, topped with a little daiya, and made a stick to your ribs casserole. And don't forget that a little beans on toast is always a good way to start your day.
Lentils also make the most excellent taco/burrito filling. Sautee cooked lentils with a little onion, garlic, and cumin, chili powder you have taco "meat". Also makes for great nachos, taco salads, and a little added to tofu for a little spicy tofu scrambled burrito!
Lentils are also good added to pasta sauce, and I have even added cooked lentils to mac and cheese to bulk it up a little.
One of my more recent uses for the little old lentil is probably, almost my favorite. It's a Lebanese Dish called Mujaddara . It is so simple, yet the flavors excited my taste buds so much the first time I tried it. It's basically a rice and lentil salad, topped with caramelized onions. It's the cumin, and cinnamon that make it stand out. It is delicious hot, warm, cold, anyway you eat it. I have no suggestions for ways to switch up the leftovers, cause I have never wanted to switch them up, it's that delicious. There is also an old hippie recipe for a brown rice, and lentil salad with green olives, and a delicious mustard dressing that I used to make often.
I myself have awful luck with homemade veggie burgers, but I know there are tons of lentil burger recipes floating around, along with lentil loafs galore.
Lentils are my go to food always. They have nourished me and saved my ass when I have been so broke I don't have change in my couch cushions. Even when I'm not totally broke, I ALWAYS have lentils in my pantry, and eat them several times a week, sometimes more.

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