The Great Lentil Experiment

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I love lentils. They are cheap, easy to make (no need to pre-soak), the third most protein from a plant source, and pretty much taste like whatever you cook them in or put on them. That you can add any flavor and cook to varying textures–toothsome to mushy–makes them versatile for many recipes. Up until now, my two go-to recipes have been lentil soup (from an old monk’s recipe, and found here online), and “Lentils Ranchero” from my beloved Frozen Assets cookbook. The soup is great, and I love the ketchup sweetness and cheesiness of the ranchero lentils, and they are also good for taco filling!

However, I feel the need to branch out. I really would like to make a tub of pre-cooked lentils, keep them in the refrigerator, and then use them for weekday lunches with many different flavors and recipes. Somebody else had this idea, too, so see here for awesome lentils!  I eat too much lunch meat or cheese for quick protein, and I figure having lentils on hand and knowing how to spice them would be healthier, more budget-friendly, and more earth-conscious. I am a flexitarian quickly moving towards full ovo-lacto vegetarianism, so there’s that, too.

Step 1, is knowing how to cook lentils. I know how, but here’s a how-to/refresher from thekitchn.com!

Step 2, is answering the question How long will lentils keep in the fridge? I’m really anxious about food safety, so looking this up at various sources, I see that the answer is 3 to 5 days in a covered container. OR (excitement!), freeze them in individual servings. I can see doing both. Some in the fridge for salads (eat first) then the frozen ones for hot lentils. I typically only keep things 3 days in the fridge, so it seems like I can stick by that rule.

Step 3, the fun part! Experimenting with flavors.

My first “recipe” was to heat up 1/2 cup of lentils, and add salt, pepper, cayenne, garlic, and thyme to taste then drizzle with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and sprinkle with 1 tsp. of parmesan-romano. They were tasty! These would be good with pasta or on garbanzo flatbread.

My second recipe was to marinate 1/2 cup in about 1.5 tablespoons of light balsamic vinaigrette. I’m going for easy things I might have time to do before work or bed! To those, I would have added chopped cucumber, grape tomatoes, bell peppers, and dill–that was the plan, but I didn’t get my shopping done before I needed to eat the beans. No worries! This is a great salad even without the veggies, and I tossed the lentils with a serving of couscous.

My third recipe–Lentil and Tuna Salad is something I thought might be a good idea, but I didn’t quite know what flavors to add. Google to the rescue!  Here are two recipes, somewhat similar, that work well with already cooked lentils if you sub in some onion and garlic powder that was missed in cooking the plain lentils–and otherwise improvise to get the flavors.  Lentil and Tuna Salad from The New York Times and Lentil, Tuna, and Roasted Red Pepper from Fine Cooking.com.

My fourth recipe–BBQ lentils.  We have lots of barbeque sauce leftover from a Fourth of July get together.  Mixing BBQ sauce and a little dijon in with lentils and serving on toasted whole grain bread is really yummy!  You can have a side of a pickle and maybe some coleslaw (I love store-bought cabbage mix and adding dressing as a to-go salad for work).  I think a slice of melted cheese on top would be great, too!

Since I made a smallish amount of cooked lentils, I’ll have to do a part two of this post for more ideas.

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