Saturday, September 15, 2012


Excellent Ingredient of the Week
Lentils! I love me some lentils, and as the seasons seem to change overnight, I think it's time to talk warm and cozy. So why eat lentils? With about 30% of their calories from protein, lentils have the third-highest level of protein, by weight, of any legume or nut, after soybeans and hemp. Lentils are an essential source of inexpensive protein in many parts of the world, especially in West Asia and the Indian subcontinent, which have large vegetarian populations. Lentils also contain dietary fiber, folate, vitamin B1, and minerals. Red (or pink) lentils contain a lower concentration of fiber than green lentils (11% rather than 31%). Many hippy health magazines have selected lentils as one of the five healthiest foods. Lentils are often mixed with grains, such as rice, which results in a complete protein dish.

Lentils come in three main varieties: brown, green and red. Most grocery stores carry brown lentils. Green and red lentils may be found at specialty food markets. Here are some tips for choosing your color: Brown lentils. The least expensive, they soften when cooked and can become mushy. Use for soups. Green lentils are also called French lentils, these have a nuttier flavor and stay firm when cooked. Green lentils are the best choice for salads. Red lentils are the fastest cooking, these lose their shape and turn golden when cooked. They taste milder and sweeter than green lentils. Use them for purees and Indian dals.

Unlike other legumes, lentils cook quickly without pre-soaking. Just make sure to rinse away any dirt, dust or debris before adding them to recipes. Lentils work well in soups, stews and salads. Or you boil them for 15 to 30 minutes, add turmeric, ginger or other seasonings, and serve over rice or mix with other vegetables and enjoy.

Here is an richly flavored recipe I adore. There are lots of steps: smoking, sauteing, and mixing, but it's totally worth it! From Food 52.

Smoked Lentil Salad with Sriracha Miso Mayonnaise

1/2 pound green lentils, rinsed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 cup yellow onion, medium diced
3 celery stalks, medium diced
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
11/2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
1/2 cup mesquite or hickory or apple wood chips
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
1/4 cup white miso paste
1 cup cucumber, diced small
1 cup fresh tomatoes, diced small
1/2 cup sweet onions, diced small
a few grinds black pepper

In a large heat-proof bowl, mix the lentils, cumin, onion and garlic powders then add enough boiling water to cover then soak, covered for 20 minutes.

In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil on medium high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, lower the heat to medium, add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the onion, celery and kosher salt, cover and cook for 3-5 minutes until the onions are translucent, stirring occasionally. Stir in the carrots and the drained lentils. Add the vegetable broth, adjust the heat to high and bring to a boil. When it comes to a boil, immediately reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered for 15- 20 minutes until the lentils are just tender. Spread the lentils evenly on two rimmed baking sheets and leave at room temperature.

Meanwhile, soak the wood chips in a small bowl with enough water to cover for 20 minutes. Adjust the heat on a grill to medium high. Drain and wrap the wood chips in a pouch made out of aluminum foil. Pierce the pouch several times, place near the grill’s heating element (or according to grill directions) and close the grill. After 10 minutes, place one tray of lentils in the grill, close and smoke for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the smoke subside for 5 minutes. The lentils will turn a little red. Reserve the other tray of lentils unsmoked.

Finish the mayonnaise while the lentils are smoking. In a small bowl thoroughly mix the Sriracha sauce and miso paste with the mayonnaise, cover and refrigerate. Allow the lentils to cool to room temperature on a wire rack. Transfer both trays to a large mixing bowl and gently fold half of the mayo. Refrigerate, covered until well chilled about 2-4 hours. Add the cucumbers, tomatoes and onions to the lentils and combine. Fold the rest of the Sriracha miso Mayonnaise into the bowl, mix and refrigerate until chilled. Top with a few grinds of ground pepper and serve.