If you hate lentils, chances are you have eaten them from a can. The first time I tried them was long before becoming vegan. The lentils were floating in a dirty, brown broth labeled by the Progresso company as soup. I was unimpressed, to say the least.
Since then, however, I have come to appreciate home cooked lentils for the clean, lean, whole food protein powerhouses they are, boasting 18 grams per cup. Not too shabby!
Through experience, I have learned the tastiest lentils are always cooked fresh. By controlling the cooking and flavoring process can you truly have the best lentil experience.
Here is a simple, flavorful recipe for lentils you can dish over a steaming bowl of rice and announce that dinner is done.
Lentils For Dinner
2 tablespoons Olive oil
1/2 cup Celery, finely chopped
1/2 cup Carrot, finely chopped
1/2 cup Onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp. Minced garlic
1 tbsp. Ginger, fresh–grated or finely chopped
1 cup Lentils, brown–rinsed, removing any stones or foreign matter
1 Bay leaf
2 cups Water
1 tsp. Salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Heat large, deep skillet or dutch oven over medium heat and sauté onion, carrots and celery in olive oil with a pinch of salt until onion is translucent and carrots are crisp-tender (about 7 minutes).
Add ginger and garlic and sauté another 2 minutes.
Pour 2 cups of water into the vegetable mixture along with the rinsed lentils, bay leaf and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered until lentils are tender, but not mushy *(about 20-25 minutes), with most or all of the water absorbed. You want them to simmer–bubbling nicely, not to boil like crazy. This will make them break apart and get mushy.
Taste for salt and add more if needed, along with a generous grind of fresh, black pepper.
*Note: Cooking time can vary slightly from brand to brand, so it’s a good idea to check in periodically and see how the lentils are coming along, giving them a little stir. Pull one out and bite into it at about the 20 minute mark. The last thing you want is to overcook them. Al dente (firm to the bite) is my goal, so I can toss any leftovers into a cold salad the next day.
Lentil is one of my favorite high-protein meal soups. It’s simple and low maintenance, and comes together in just a few minutes.
I enjoy cooking soup on the stove—that aromatic slow-simmering, stirring, tending, nurturing activity.
But, during the work week I usually don’t have that kind of time. The last thing I want to read in a crockpot recipe is the direction to sauté vegetables before adding them to the crockpot. If I had time to do that, well I would probably take it all the way on the stove!
Instead, I left my crock pot in charge this morning, and brisked out the door for work. By lunch time I had a rich, satisfying stew, and lots of it. I think about what a prepared cup of soup costs, about $3. For less than that, I could feed a family of four, dinner sized portions of this hearty, healthful, tasty meal. Just saying…
Hearty Lentil Soup
1 ½ cups raw brown lentils, rinsed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
2 or 3 carrots, peeled and diced
2 or 3 stalks celery, diced
Handful of celery tops (optional)
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
Big sprig of fresh thyme (or 2 tsp. ground)
5-6 cups vegetable broth (or water)
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
Prepare all ingredients and add to crockpot. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours. Stir and check for seasonings. Depending on your broth, you may wish to add salt. With a pair of tongs or a fork, fish out and discard the bay leaves, thyme stems and celery tops, if used. Add a generous grind of pepper and add broth if needed, depending on how “soupy” you like it.
Yield: 4-6 big servings