Lentils: Nobody's Favorite Food
When I was growing up, my aunt's favorite food was lentils. Lentils? Nobody's favorite food is lentils. As it turns out, lentils aren't really her favorite food either. Actually, they wouldn't be her first choice at any given moment but they would be the food she'd want if she were stuck on a desert island because lentils are high in folate, fiber, and a bunch of B vitamins, and the quickest-cooking of all the dried legumes. That's my aunt for you. The only person in my family that's even remotely practical.
Lentils run the color gamut from green to yellow, and the size gamut from small to even smaller. But they all taste pretty much the same, so use whatever kind appeals to you.
You can cook lentils as you would rice - just enough water, no draining required - or as you would pasta - lots of water, drain when done. For the rice method, bring a cup of lentils to a boil in 2 cups of water, turn the heat down, and simmer until the beans are soft, about 25 minutes (or 10 to 20, for the smaller ones). For the pasta technique, just use a lot of water and drain the lentils after cooking.
- Mix lentils with chopped vegetables and couscous or rice, and toss with a light vinaigrette. (Or skip the couscous or rice - lentils make great salads all by themselves.)
- Make simple curried lentils: Sauté an onion and a few minced garlic cloves with curry powder. Add a cup of lentils and 2 cups of water and simmer until the lentils are soft. Serve as a meal or a side dish.
- Sauté lentils with spinach, kale, or mustard greens. Spice it up with salsa, hoisin sauce, or just a splash of Tabasco.
And even the die-hard legume-averse can be tempted by a bowl of lentil soup. But whatever you do, make sure you invite my aunt.
Lentil, Couscous and Salmon Salad
Lentils, aside from being healthy and tasty, are a good match for the variety of flavors in this dish. It is through this that the quality of the dish stands out.
1-1/2 cups brown lentils
1-1/2 cups instant couscous
2 tablespoons olive oil
7 ounces cured or smoked salmon
1. Rinse the lentils and soak them in cool water for 1 hour. Drain and place in a saucepan. Add enough water to cover and bring to a boil. Cook for approximately 30-40 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Drain and allow to cool.
2. Place the couscous in a bowl and prepare according to manufacturer's instructions. Fluff with a fork.
3. Dice the tomatoes; slice the salmon into thin strips; finely slice the basil; squeeze the lemon juice. Combine the couscous with the lentils, salmon, tomatoes, basil, lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well. Allow to rest at least 2 hours before serving. The longer it rests, the better the flavor will be!