You know, people's opinions on lentils really run the gamut. Some people hate them. Some people really hate them. Some only dislike them. Some throw up a little when they think about them. Others are narcotized with boredom.
Wherever you fall on this scale, have I got a recipe for you! First, let's talk a little about the lentil, shall we?
What is it? Well, Harold says that the lentil is probably the oldest cultivated legume, that is, the family of plants that have seed-bearing pods (more or less, think beans and peas). Its Latin origin is the word lens, presumably for its shape, like two contact lenses back-to-back. Alan helpfully adds that the seeds themselves "come in various sizes, from tiny to small," thank you, and a variety of colors. They can basically be grouped into two categories: those which are large and light colored (greenish and yellowish), and the others which are much smaller and either brown, pink, or grey.
Also, lentils have the highest protein content of all its competitors, excluding soy beans, at more than 30% of your RDA per serving. I'm not sure why lentils have earned such a bad rap: they have a really mild flavor and readily absorb the essence of whatever you join them with. Wait, maybe it's all that fiber. Maybe you've all eaten lentils and embarrassed yourself after dinner. Well, even if you have, you've been simultaneously fighting high cholesterol and heart disease, regulating your digestive tract, stabilizing your blood sugar levels, and pumping iron (into your bloodstream, which is good). So give the lentil another chance, will you? Try this.
Boil some lentils until they're soft, but not mushy (about 15-20 minutes). Meanwhile, dice up some root vegetables--sweeter ones like beets and carrots--and roast them in the oven. Make a quick vinaigrette and toss it all together. Even add some cheese if you want. It's great warm or cold, so keep it in the fridge and fork it for the next few days.
Lentil Salad with Roasted Root Vegetables
can serve 2-3, but also makes a great lunch-for-work or snack-when-you're-bored-at-home for one; ready in 45 minutes
1 medium carrot
1 very small (or 1/2 medium) celery root
2 medium golden beets, (with greens optional)
1/2 cup green lentils
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp walnut, grape seed, or olive oil
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp honey
salt and pepper
Optional: 2 Tbsp grated parmesan or crumbled feta
- First, preheat your oven to 375º and dice up the carrot, celery root (peeled) and beets (peeled) into 1/2-inch dice. Toss with oil, salt and pepper and throw in the oven until they're pretty soft, 25-35 minutes.
- Meanwhile, bring a small pot of water to boil. Dump in the lentils and cook for 17-20 minutes, until the lentils are chewable but still have a little bite. (If you go to far, you'll have mush instead of salad.) Lift out with a strainer, leaving the hot water in the pot. Stem and chop up the beet greens and drop them in the boiling water for about 5 minutes, until softened. Drain.
- In a large bowl, combine vinegar, oil, mustard, honey, salt and pepper to taste. Whisk vigorously until well combined. Then stir in lentils, roasted vegetables, greens, scallions, and cheese (if using). Season with salt and pepper. Yum!