Lentils, the best food

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I love lentils.  In any way, shape, or form.  Red lentils, green lentils, brown lentils, you name it.  I’ve also included other legumes in my heart, like chick peas.  Because chick peas are just awesome.

But today I’m going to talk about my first love, French Green Lentils also called Puy Lentils.

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My mother first made these for me when I was in high school.  They were cooked to a perfect tenderness, and then mixed with reduced balsamic vinegar and placed underneath a salmon filet.  I was in heaven.

The next morning for breakfast, I would without fail eat more lentils.  They never lasted more than two days in our household.  My mother would be despondent because I nabbed them before she could have any, although eventually I think she realized the solution is always to make more lentils.

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The summer after my freshman year of college I spent my first summer alone-ish at my house in Rhode Island.  Besides making plenty (and I mean plenty) of lemon curd, I also made quite a lot of lentils. They were my healthy food, something other than fat and sugar, that I could eat on a regular basis without feeling like a balloon.

And my love deepened.  What had at first been a lustful relationship became stronger and more emotionally based.  Lentils were my meal.  Mine.  And I ate them constantly.

I made them with caramelized shallots (like an onion mixed with garlic but better, see photo below) and carrots.  I ate them with seedy mustard and flaky sea salt.  Tahini and lemon.  They transformed with different flavors while at the same retained a certain nutty distinctness of which I am still enamored.

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My favorite (although the most difficult to make) is a chickpea and lentil salad from A Girl and her Pig by April Bloomfield (of The Spotted Pig fame).  This version has a rich dressing with tahini, preserved lemons, olive oil, flaky salt, and a few more things that escape me.  But it takes a lot longer than my lentils take to make so I only make it on special occasions (or just when I have time).

Today, I’m just going to share my basic recipe for lentils, with some variations listed below.  And, lets be honest, lentils really are the best food.  Healthy, cheap, versatile, simple, and beautiful.  Who has an argument against them?

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Lentils: The Best Food

1/2 cup to 2 cups lentils

Olive Oil

1-3 Garlic cloves

Any herb you have on hand (bay leaf, thyme, rosemary, etc), optional.

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Place your lentils in a medium to large saucepan and cover with enough water to cover the lentils by at least 2 inches (I’d go three if doing 2 cups).  Pour in a dash of olive oil, a 1/4 teaspoon or so, as well as 1-3 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half.  Heat over medium heat until the lentils just begin to boil.  Turn the heat down to medium low or low and let simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the lentils are at your desired tenderness.  Drain, return to the pot (or a bowl) and season with salt and pepper.

Variations:

Caramelize 1-3 shallots in olive oil.  Add to the lentils after they are done.  Either put in your desired amount of seedy mustard or reduce some balsamic vinegar by half (ie 1/2 cup to 1/4 cup) and mix it into the lentils.

Make a tahini lemon dressing by mixing lemon juice, tahini, flaky sea salt, olive oil, and a bit of water until you get your desired consistency and taste.  Mix with the lentils.  Top with parsley as garnish.

Use saffron salt and put it on caramelized shallots and in the lentils.  Gives it an earthy flavor.

Throw some crumbled fresh goat cheese in there, either with lemon tahini or with balsamic or even mustard.  Goat cheese makes everything better.

And there are so many more!  Please let me know if you have any other lentil recipes you love. =)

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11 comments
  1. Cea said:

    Thank you for reminding me how much I like lentils. I had a recipe once that cooked lentils with water and onions, then baked them with evaporated milk and breadcrumbs (with cheese?) on the top. It was distressingly good.

    • Eliza B said:

      One must never forget their love of lentils! You recipe sounds delectable. What type of lentils did you use in it?

      • Cea said:

        Brown or green. It just seems wrong to mix Puy lentils with evaporated milk. 🙂

  2. Rico Suave said:

    This post needs cats like I need lentils right now.

    Shallots or the bomb.

    • Eliza B said:

      I like your type, Rico. I’m going to be home soon and I’ll get plenty more photos of Jethro for you.

  3. nhowser said:

    Ooh, great ideas! Typically I only use lentils in soups, not on their own… but I love your suggestions, especial the one with balsamic vinegar…yum!

  4. My go-to lentil recipe involved soaking them over night (supposed to be healthier that way) in water and whey, then draining that and cooking them in chicken stock and adding garlic, black pepper, thyme, and a bit of cayenne. And salt. Sometimes some lemon juice or the juice from sauerkraut. Right now I’m off lentils, but I’ll probably be back on them some day and will absolutely have to try some of your variations. I used to eat them either as a side or as a filling–along with spinach–for my omelet.

    • Eliza B said:

      I love being on the lentil wagon. Healthy and cheap! You should rejoin. French lentils really are the best and have the most flavor. I’ve never tried with them sauerkraut though. I love sauerkraut.

  5. Deb said:

    Being on a low carb diet right now makes lentils a problem but I love them. I made a soup/stew with them and some kind of sausage not too long ago (pre-diet). I kind of threw in whatever was around. Fabulous and it freezes well. Can’t eat 5 quarts of lentil soup… so I freeze some. Love ya! Deb (your cousin…)

  6. This sounds so good. Tahini, saffon salt, I can only imagine how great this tastes.I’m not superstitious, but lentils are a sign of prosperity on New Year’s in Latin America. I always like to eat them when I can, just in case they’re onto something!

    • Eliza B said:

      I never knew that! All the more reason to eat more lentils 🙂

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