Friday, March 20, 2009

A New Idea for Lentils

As is often the case this time of year, the weather has been a little unpredictable. Over the frosty weekend, I had lofty plans of making a batch of curried lentil soup. But, overnight, Spring came to the city, leaving me no longer wanting the hearty soup and wondering what to do with all these lentils. An extensive Google search led me to a ton of recipes, but none that I either wanted to make or that I had the ingredients on hand for.

But, the recipes did serve to inspire me some. Admittedly, I am no culinary expert. I cook from the instincts and taste-buds. The instructions are not exact—they are approximates, so play with it. Take it off the heat when you think it’s ready—although it does tend to stick to the bottom, so make sure to scrape. Taste while you go. Try different spices. Turn your music up. Dance while stirring and sing loudly.

With what I found in the cupboards and fridge, here’s what I concocted.

Spicy Lentils Over Rice
2 - 19 oz. cans lentils
1- 28 oz. can diced tomatoes (crushed would do)
3 oz. tomato paste (about ½ can)
1 - Large onion, diced
2 - Good sized garlic cloves, crushed
Cumin to taste (about palm)
Cinnamon to taste (about ½ palm)
Hot pepper flakes (large pinch)
Grapefruit juice (lemon or lime would do nicely as well)
Splash of red wine vinegar
Salt & Pepper to taste

Step 1: Coat bottom of a good sized soup pot with olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Once heated, add diced onion and cook until tender, almost browning. Add crushed garlic.
Step 2: After few minutes, add lentils, tomatoes, cumin, cinnamon, hot pepper flakes, salt & pepper. Bring to a boil.

Step 3: Once boiling, add grapefruit juice and vinegar. Reduce to a simmer.
Step 4: Cover and let simmer for about 15 minutes, until reduced some. Meanwhile make some rice according to the package—brown, basmati, jasmine all work.

Step 5: Once the lentil mixture has reduced, keep covered and let sit off the heat for about 10 minutes (or enough time to make a lightly dressed simple side salad).

Serve over rice.

I originally started with 1 can of lentils, but, after some cooking time, the tomatoes released tons of liquid. I decided to add a second can to thicken the mixture up—I was looking for an Indian-dishtexture, not soup or stew.

After letting it cook down slightly, I still tasted that something was missing. The flavors needed a little brightening. I had read a recipe along the way that called for lemon juice. Unfortunately, I had used up all my lemons but did have some grapefruit juice. It turned out to be a lovely balance of tart, brightening the flavors, while adding a little sweet. But still, there was something missing; some acidity. I have a recipe for a fantastic Roasted Butternut Squash Soup that calls for red wine vinegar to cut the sweet, so I decided to try it out. Just one capful was exactly what this needed—although some cooking wine or sherry could work nicely too. The acidity almost separates all the different flavors, enhancing each.

Alternatively, I could imagine serving this over couscous, polenta, or alone in a steaming bowl with crusty fresh bread, as well as adding some spinach or even okra.

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm, that looks good. I love spicy foods and lentils. As this seems to mix both of them, I may try this recipe some day. Thanks for sharing it.