Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Lentils Are A Super Foods

Lentils are a super food in my pantry.  They’re one of the ingredients I keep on hand at all times because they’re an inexpensive high protein food that also doubles as a comfort food for rainy day dinners.  They’re very versatile, you can eat them hot in a soup or stew, cold on a salad or you can sprout them.  When sprouted, they contain all of the essential amino acids.
Lentils have been eaten for over 6000 years in central asia and were probably the first domesticated legume.   You have to take a closer look at a food that’s been around that long. They’re high in iron, calcium and folate (B6) and fiber.  The fiber in lentils help your body lower it’s cholesterol levels, and because it’s a low glycemic food, it’s also beneficial in managing blood sugar.  They fill you up and you won’t be hungry an hour later.
I try to eat lentils once a week. I used to throw a cup of them into a soup pot and cover them with 3 cups of broth and a variety of vegetables, and 30 minutes later, you have dinner.  While this is a quick and easy way to cook them, it also tends to muddy up the flavor of the vegetables.  I’ve learned to cook the the lentils and some of the vegetables separately, to make the dish more flavorful.

I saute the onions and garlic, in a little olive oil, before I add the lentils and the broth.  Then, I simmer the lentils for about 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, I cut up some carrots and mushrooms, lots of mushrooms, and saute them in a separate pan and then splash them with some white wine.  They’re really tasty cooked that way.  When the lentils have absorbed all of the liquid and are tender, I stir in some spinach, and top them with the sauteed veggies.  You can use whatever vegetables you have on hand, you can substitute kale or chard for the spinach.  Sometimes I add some tofu or brown rice to the lentils to up the protein factor even more. The key ingredient that makes this dish for me is the addition of a tablespoon of mustard.  I use a spicy honey mustard from Sierra Nevada Brewery, it just happens to be my favorite.  Feel free to experiment with what you’ve got on hand, but don’t leave it out.
The recipe below makes enough for 4 side dishes, but we eat this for a main course, and have seconds, so it really only feeds two.  If you’ve got a large family, double the recipe.

Lentils and Vegetables

Makes 4 side dish servings or 2 main dish - Use organic ingredients whenever possible

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
I/2 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup green lentils
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth (I use Imagine No-Chicken Broth)
1 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon spicy honey mustard (or whatever you have on hand)
1/4 teaspoon salt (optional depending on the sodium content of your broth)
2 cups spinach leaves, packed
2 teaspoons Earth Balance butter substitute
12 mushrooms
1 carrots, sliced diagonally
2 tablespoons white wine
Heat the olive oil in a cast iron skillet or heavy pot.
Add the diced onion and minced garlic and saute on medium low for 5 minutes.
Add the lentils, water and broth and turn the heat up to high.
When the broth starts to boil, turn the heat down to low and simmer for 30 minutes (the lentils should be tender and the broth absorbed.
Turn off the heat and stir in the mustard and then the spinach.
In a separate pan, melt the Earth Balance.
Add mushrooms and carrot and saute on medium low for about 10 minutes.
Add the white wine and continue cooking until the wine is cooked off.
Plate the lentils and top with the carrots and mushrooms.

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