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Red Lentils (c)2012

I’ve got creative ideas for cooking with lentils during winter:

1.  Lentil Salad

The Lentil and Walnut Salad from Nigella Express is my absolute favorite lentil salad recipe. Cooked French Puy (green) lentils are dressed in a walnut oil and sherry vinaigrette and served with chopped walnuts and chives. I like to add goat cheese, sautéed mushrooms, and bacon for a balance of tangy, earthy, meaty, and herby flavor. Another unique lentil salad recipe can be found in the lovely cookbook, Homemade, where cook and illustrator Yvette Van Boven combines cooked green lentils with crunchy red apple, cilantro, sliced celery, golden raisins, and endive. A simple garlic-red wine vinaigrette brightens this winter dish.

2.  Chili Lentils for Tacos

Pam Anderson’s new collection of recipes, Cook Without a Book, is full of vegetarian inspiration. I think her method of using stewed brown lentils with tomato, garlic, and onion for taco filling is very clever. It’s a hearty mixture spiced with chili powder, cumin, and oregano. Serve the chili lentils buffet style with tortillas, taco shells, and her bright and refreshing Cabbage Slaw. I like a vegetarian recipe that doesn’t force things, this is a smart and flavorful use of healthy ingredients for a satisfying meatless Monday supper.

3.  Beluga Lentil Crostini

Heidi Swanson shares a delightful recipe for Beluga Lentil Crostini in her first book, Super Natural Cooking. She describes the flavor of these tiny black pulses as earthy with a bit of grassiness. During the last days of winter, before the first tender salad greens have sprouted, I could stave off my yearning for spring with one of her garlic-rubbed toasts, slathered in goat cheese with a sprinkling of chives and a spoonful of cooked beluga lentils.

4.  Lentil Soup

It seems red lentil soup is en vogue right now. In the February issue of Food & Wine Magazine, Salma Abdelnour writes, “I hope one result of all the eyes on Egypt will be a renewed interest in its culture, including its food traditions.” Her article, A Lesson in Egyptian Classics, includes a recipe for sherbet adsEgyptian Red Lentil Soup spiced with cumin and chile. I like the “Arabic-style” croutons sprinkled on top, which are torn pita breads fried until crunchy. I’ll be making this soup on the blog tomorrow. I’m also loving the recipes and photography in Whole Living Magazine, especially this Red Lentil Soup with Turnip and Parsleythat was part of the 28 Day Mind+Body Challenge.

5.  Peas and Lentils

The recipe for Peas and Lentils from the Moro East cookbook by husband and wife chefs Sam & Sam Clark brings a little bit of spring into the late winter pantry. I like the pairing of fresh vibrant flavors (think peas and herb infused lemon sauce) with earthy brown lentils. Plus, the ingredients can all be found easily this time of year. Cooked lentils are combined with cooked petit pois, fresh mint, sage, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, and red wine vinegar. The dish is meant to be served warm, and would be lovely aside roast chicken. I turn to the Moro cookbooks for their unique flavor combinations which are guaranteed to get me out of a cooking rut.

6.  Lentils Castellucciano

I first learned of Lentils Castellucciano from Nancy Silverton’s Mozza Cookbook, where she writes about using Umbrian lentils exclusively in her Mozza restaurant. Nancy shares that the small, brown-green lentils come from the Italian town of Castelluccio, where they prepare the lentils like a stew or ragu. The technique involves sautéing diced proscuitto in a hot pan, then adding the holy trinity of diced onion, carrot, and celery, with garlic. A little tomato paste in the pan caramelizes, adding depth of flavor. Pour in the lentils and cook risotto style, adding a little stock at a time and stirring until the lentils are creamy. I found a similar recipe in the Pasta Sfoglia cookbook, where Chef Ron Suhanosky serves the lentils with penne and plenty of freshly grated Parmesan.

7.  Curried Chickpea, Lentil, and Swiss Chard Stew

This recipe from Patricia Wells’ Vegetable Harvest has several things going for it, first, lentils combine beautifully with other legumes, like starchy chickpeas. Also, curry powder adds pungent, spicy, floral, and earthy flavors to the dish. Lastly, greens like Swiss chard, spinach, or kale are also delicious with the earthy legumes. It’s a simple dish, requiring the green lentils cook with sweated onions, a bouquet garni, and the spices for about 20 minutes. Canned chickpeas are added to the pot along with chopped Swiss chard to simmer for a few minutes. Serve the stew with Greek yogurt and toasted cumin seeds.

8.  Lentil Cakes

I’m attracted to these South Indian Lentil Cakes with Raita by Marcie Turney over at Savuer because #1 I love pancakes and #2 intense flavors and pretty colors of spicy ginger, aromatic basmati, fresh mint, green peas, and peppery lentils are more than welcome at my winter table. The green patties are assembled, then pan fried and served with raita, a garlicky yogurt sauce.

9.  Lentil and Squash Pasties

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is a genius, if only for including the fantastic recipe in River Cottage EveryDay for pocket-pies filled with thyme-infused stewed lentils (green or brown) and butternut squash. The hearty filling is flavored with balsamic vinegar and hot English mustard, then spooned into Hugh’s modified puff pastry recipe (though he says a short crust will do). After 25 minutes in the oven the pasties are golden and ready to pack for lunch.

10.  Lentils with Fish

Lentils and fish are another complimentary pairing. I like the contrast in texture between lentils and crispy, pan fried fish, exemplified in the recipe for Pan-Roasted Striped Bass with Lentils from The Young Man & The Sea. Chef David Pasternack cooks lentils in mirepoix, diced pancetta, and water until tender, risotto style. Striped bass fillets are dredged in delicate Wondra flour and seared in hot oil. Serve the fish over the lentils with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and sea salt.  Or try the recipe for Fried Red Mullet with Lentils, Lemon & Oil from How to Roast a Lamb: New Greek Classic Cooking. Lentils are braised in red wine with thyme, half the batch pureed, the other left whole. Red mullet fillets are coated with garlic puree and mustard, wrapped in sage, then dredged in flour, skewered and fried until golden brown. Sounds amazing, no?

What is your favorite way to cook with lentils? Let me know in the comments section. Click Here.