Several months ago, I bought a small package of lentils from the bulk section of my favorite local grocery store (HEB is the greatest, y’all). I attempted once to cook a small serving according to directions I Googled and they were still hard as pebbles when I tried to eat them. Discouraged, I let them sit in the back of my pantry.
This weekend, I was reorganizing said pantry upon my return to Texas from the holidays and I stumbled upon the package. I looked at the lentils long and hard and was forced to ask myself this question: What the heck is a lentil, anyways?
My good buddy Wikipedia informed me that lentils are, in fact, a type of pulse. Well, daggummit! How did I not know that?
Wait… what is a pulse? Turns out I know very little about food, but I continued to read and then discovered that lentils are legumes… so, to me, they’re beans. I’m sure chefs everywhere are cringing at my logic.
Because of my rather challenging history with cooking lentils I searched away and found out that I could cook them in a rice cooker on the “standard cycle”. Well my hand-me-down rice cooker (thanks, Mary!!) only has one cycle, so I poured in a cup of lentils and 2 cups of water and 1 cycle later, they were plump and hydrated. But now what? What do you do with lentils? (And remember: I don’t really like soup.)
Since I conceptualize lentils as beans, I decided to stew them much like I would stew black beans. I did learn a thing or two when I lived in Mexico for a summer and I love to throw beans in a pot with some spices and let them simmer. The end result turned out delicious and pretty similar to how I like my black beans.
Oh and I recently gave Trevor his pretty, red Dutch oven back that I appropriated for blogging purposes because I got a great deal on my very own Dutch oven! I’m the proud new parent of a “café brown” 6 qt oven from Lodge — I really like it so far!
Spicy Stewed Lentils (serves 4-6)
3 cups cooked lentils (about 1 heaping cup uncooked)
1/2 large white onion, diced
2 cups water
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or less if you don’t want it as spicy!)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp cumin
salt & pepper
In a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, heat a splash of olive oil until it glistens on medium-high heat then add in diced onions with some salt. After a few minutes, the onions will be tender. Add in the lentils, water, and spices. Stir well and turn the heat down to medium for 5 minutes, then to medium-low. Cover and let simmer for 30-40 minutes. Remove lentils from liquid with slotted spoon and serve! This makes a great, healthy side dish.