They are my favorite alt-protein when I just don't feel like eating meat. They have all kinds of health benefits, and black lentils are great because they hold their shape when fully cooked rather than becoming more... well, mushy, for lack of a better word.
When I make lentil soup, I like to use red or green lentils, but in this sort of application black lentils are the best choice. They are cheap (I think the 1 pound bag I buy at Whole Foods is $2.99), and they cook quickly.
These punjabi-style lentils from Smitten Kitchen are a favorite dish around my house. Even the pickier members of the family go in for seconds, despite the more unfamiliar spices used. We like them over rice, topped with cilantro and a bit of butter and cream.
They're weeknight-friendly for sure, but also taste like Saturday comfort food
recipe from smitten kitchen
[ serves 4 ]
2 tablespoons oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1-inch piece of ginger, minced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ground chile powder (more or less to taste)
14.5 oz. can petite diced or pureed tomatoes
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup dried black lentils
4 1/2 cups water
In a medium pot (I like to use my dutch oven) over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the onion and cumin seeds and sauté until lightly browned. Stir in the garlic and ginger, sautéing for about a minute, then stir in the coriander, turmeric, garam masala, and chile powder along with the can of tomatoes. Cook for a few more minutes, stirring often and scraping up any bits on the bottom of the pot. The mixture will darken slightly and become tighter.
Add the water, salt, and lentils. Stir, bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 35-40 minutes. Taste for salt and spice.
To serve, scoop the lentils into bowls over rice. Top with a small amount of butter and cream, and sprinkle fresh cilantro.
P.S. Looking for more ways to eat lentils? How about smothered in homemade BBQ sauce over polenta? Make these BBQ lentils from The First Mess. They're SO good.