Meatless Monday's - Lentils as the Star

Dried Green Lentils My journey for “healthier” began in the fall of 2012. It has been a passage, and the first time when I have seen results of my work and have not felt deprived.  Everyone is quick to...

Dried  Green Lentils
Dried Green Lentils

My journey for “healthier” began in the fall of 2012. It has been a passage, and the first time when I have seen results of my work and have not felt deprived.  Everyone is quick to ask how many points I allow myself to consume each day and what my caloric intake registers for a given 24 hour period?   I do not think this way, in fact, I do not count any calories, monitor any points or do not follow any portion control.  I have come to learn how to read food labels and subsequently how to discern good choices for my meals.  I do remember the early advice on reading labels, if you cannot pronounce the ingredients within, it is probably not one you should consume.  If your grandmother never ate this food, you should think twice about eating it now, and be wary of the low fat and low sodium promises.   I opt for fresh fruits and vegetables whenever possible and have created some wonderful new twists on recipes given my cooking successes over the past thirty years.  I have also been monitoring my walking over the past 8 months and have averages over 10K steps daily.  Prior to this I assumed I walked enough and did not need to monitor my steps.  This is my daily accountability to myself.  Then, there is also a group exercise class that meets three times a week and is yet another accountability team for everyone’s  progress.

Now, back to some cooking….There are some ingredients that I know we should be eating more, so I work hard at discovering recipes to complement these super foods.  Lentils are one of these ingredients that I have been experimenting with over these past few weeks.  I remember a Lentil soup that my grandmother made.  It was much like her Split Pea soup in the seasonings.  The recipe followed the French traditions finished with onions, celery and carrot.   The stock was made from a ham bone or a ham hock.  My grandmother’s secret ingredient was always garlic and lots of it!   Here is the recipe I shared earlier for my new and improved Split Pea Soup.

Of course, following the healthier lifestyle, I will not start this soup from a ham bone, but instead my rich homemade vegetable stock.

I have become a fan of roasting all vegetables for my soups to add yet another layer of flavor. But, the problem with Lentil soup, is you are not always in the mood for soup!

As the seasons are ready to change I wanted to experiment with using the green lentils as a base for a cold salad.  Again, these legumes do not bring tremendous flavor to the table, but are heart healthy and super foods, so the challenge is how to infuse flavors and continue to enjoy the texture that they hold even after the cooking process.   I started by preparing them in my homemade vegetable broth, careful not to overcook and then I added a dressing to these hot lentils and let the magic begin.  The dressing is my Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette, here is the link to the recipe.  I will only use about 1/3 – 1 / 2  of the recipe to dress a pound of lentils.  I let the lentils come to room temperature on the counter, stirring occasionally, and then placing this in the fridge in a covered container for 2 days to allow these flavors to marry.  This resting has been the secret to success!  (I must confess, the first time I made this salad, it was too bland for my taste and in fact I added feta cheese to help with the flavorings!  This was not following a healthy salad prescription, but I was looking for flavors to help bring this dish to life!)

Greek Inspired Lentil Salad
Greek Inspired Lentil Salad

Greek Inspired Lentil Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound green lentils
  • About 6 – 7 cups of vegetable stock
  • Lemon and Dijon Dressing
  • One red onion, diced
  • Sundried tomatoes or Sundried tomatoes in oil.  To cut back on the fat, try the dried tomatoes in the plastic pouches
  • About 8 ounces or  ½ can black olives, sliced
  • About 1 pound of fresh grape/cherry tomatoes
  • One English cucumber, peeled, remove the seeds and then dice.
  • One red, yellow or orange pepper chopped and diced (optional)
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasonings, crushed in the palm of your hand before adding

Directions:

  1. Bring the lentils to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes.   I opt to use homemade stock, if you are using any prepared stocks, opt for the low sodium as you do not want to add salt to the lentil in the cooking process.
  2. When the lentils are al dente, drain off any excess liquid and dress with the Lemon Dijon Dressing.  Again, I only will use 1/3 to 1/ 2 of the recipe to dress a pound of lentils.
  3. Allow the lentils to cool on the countertop and stir them occasionally.  Before I let these rest in the fridge, I will add the one red onion to the lentils for some added flavorings.
  4. Allow these lentils to rest in the fridge for about 2 days before you finish this salad.  I tend to stir this mixture each day.
  5. One the day of serving, add in the flavors to finish your salad.  I like the Greek inspired olives, two kinds of tomatoes and the cucumbers along with the Italian seasonings.  I like the added crunch of the peppers too.  You can opt for Kalamata olives if you like.
  6. This salad can be served at room temperature.  Great for a picnic and a very healthy alternative to a pasta or potato salad.
  7. I can promise feta cheese is a great addition to this salad, but it does not fit within my healthier life-style plan.

I will continue my experimentation with lentils, look for more recipes in my Meatless Monday blog.

What is your favorite lentil recipe to share?