Easy Red Lentils

Every culture has a food they believe will promote prosperity in the coming year. Some people ring in the new year by eating grapes, others by chomping down a bowl of black-eyed peas. For me, New Year’s Eve means whipping up some lentils. In many Spanish-speaking countries, lentils symbolize prosperity and good fortune.

This past weekend, I got hit with a whammy of a cold that left my head feeling foggy. Although I felt totally drained, I didn’t want to dismiss my tradition of eating lentils. I mean, what if I suffered a year of misfortune?? Instead, I whipped up a batch of Easy Red Lentils, adapted from a delicious Indian recipe from Aarti Sequeira. This dish is a cinch to put together, requiring just a few spices and a bit of time. The result is a delicious, comforting dish that will warm you from the inside out. Happy New Year!


Easy Red Lentils

Adapted from Aarti Sequeira

What You’ll Need:

1 cup red lentils, picked through for stones
2 cups water
1 small onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
1-15 oz can diced tomatoes
1 jalapeno, sliced in half
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon canola oil
Kosher salt
fresh cilantro, for garnish

Put the lentils in a strainer and rinse in cold water. Place the strainer in a larger bowl and cover the lentils with water. Let them soak for 30 minutes, then drain.

In a medium saucepan, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat. Add the cumin and mustard seeds, then the spices. They should sizzle and the seeds may even try to jump out the pan. Heat the mixture for about 30 seconds to 1 minute, being careful not to let it burn! Add the onions, garlic and ginger. Saute for 3 to 5 minutes, until aromatic. Add the tomatoes, jalapeno and lentils. Mix everything to combine. Add the 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Cover the pot, reduce heat to low and let the lentils simmer for about 40 minutes, until very soft.

Stir the lentils with a wooden spoon, mashing some so the mixture thickens.  Add salt to taste. Serve in small bowls and garnish with cilantro. Enjoy!

Intro to Meatless Monday: Salmon with Lentils

During World War I, the government urged American families to eat less wheat, meat, sugar and fats, to aid the war effort. “Meatless Monday” was introduced. An estimated 10 million families and 7,000 hotels jumped on board, saving over 100 tons of meat in just one week. The campaign returned in World War II, when rationing was used to help feed countries in need in Europe. Over the past several years, Meatless Monday has been reintroduced in numerous communities across the country. The goal is to bring awareness about meat consumption and its effect on our bodies, as well as the environment.

Even I, your friendly neighborhood carnivore, know that there is such a thing as consuming too much meat. Our bodies can use a few meatless days now and then, giving us a chance to explore different grains, vegetables and other foods we may have not thought to try before now. That’s why I’m jumping on board with Meatless Monday. You can read more about the movement at the official Meatless Monday site.

In honor of my first Meatless Monday, here’s an easy, delicious recipe that will leave you feeling light, yet satisfied. Sauteed salmon over lentils is not only a simple dish, it’s one that’s good for you. Salmon is chockfull of Omega-3 fatty acid, which is essential for normal growth in children. It’s also known to have cardiovascular benefits and may even help improve memory.

When I went to shop for the ingredients for this dish, I originally intended to purchase salmon steaks. When I got to the fish counter of my local market, I instantly fell in love with the fresh Alaskan sockeye on display. The gorgeous pink color was unbelievable and I felt a little sorry for the other salmon. I mean, they just seemed dull in comparison! Of course, I asked the fish monger to filet me a few pieces, which I happily brought home.

I paired this delicious salmon with Beluga lentils, but you can easily substitute them for whatever lentils you have on hand. I chose black lentils because they contrast nicely with the pink of the salmon. The compound butter can be prepared ahead of time, even a day or two in advance. Any leftover butter can be used on chicken or a juicy steak. Make sure to print out a copy of this recipe, because it will definitely be a “go to” when you’re expecting company! The presentation is amazing and no one has to know that it required little effort!

Salmon with Black Lentils and Mustard-Chive Butter

What You’ll Need:

For the Butter:
6 tablespoons salted butter, softened
1 tablespoon chopped chives
2 teaspoons whole grain mustard
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the Lentils:
1 cup Beluga lentils
4 cups water
1 tablespoon Mustard-Chive Butter (see above)
A pinch of Kosher salt

For the Salmon:
4 pieces skinless salmon fillet (Preferable Alaskan Sockeye)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

To make the butter, mash all the ingredients together in a small bowl. Transfer the butter to a sheet of plastic wrap. Shape the butter into a log about an inch in diameter, using the plastic to help mold the butter. Wrap the log tightly, then chill.

Bring lentils, water and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Once the water begins to boil, reduce the heat and simmer the lentils for about 15 to 20 minutes. Almost all the water will have evaporated and the lentils should be tender. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the mustard-chive butter, then remove the lentils from the heat and cover to keep warm.

Season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the salmon for 3 to 4 minutes on each side. I like my salmon medium-rare, but if you prefer yours closer to well done, increase the cooking time by 1 or 2 minutes, total. Overcooked fish is a sacrilege.

Spoon some of the lentils onto a plate, then place a salmon filet onto the lentils. Top with some of the mustard-chive butter. Enjoy!