Mexican lentils spice up Lent
Lent starts next week, on Ash Wednesday. For many that means abstaining from meat on certain days or through the whole Lenten season.
Lentils are a versatile substitute for meat protein. They are easy and fast to cook, meld well with other flavors, and make a satisfying meal.
Lentils were one of the first crops domesticated by man. Farming lentils dates back to 9500-13,000 years ago. Lentils can be red, yellow, brown, green, or black. They also come in different sizes, the smallest being prized by chefs.
Lentils contain 30% protein including some necessary amino acids. Lentils are the main source of cheap protein in many parts of the world, especially among vegetarian populations.
Lentils are a versatile ingredient, as there are so many ways to prepare them.
Cooking lentils is simple and fast. Basically, cover with water, season, bring to a boil, and simmer for 15-40 minutes until tender.
Smaller lentils take less time to cook and need to be watched.
Lentils will start to disintegrate if over cooked. They will turn to mush in a heartbeat.
Lentils can be served alone, with added ingredients like tomatoes, carrots, meat, ham, sausage, over or with rice, on pasta, and many many more. They meld well with other flavors and can be used to make satisfying dishes.
Whether you call them lentils, fakes, dal, lenticchie, lentille, or lenteja lentils are delicious, fast and easy to make, and nutritious.
2- tbsp olive oil
1- medium sized onion finely diced
3-4- cloves of garlic finely diced (Or to taste)
1- carrot, small dice (optional)
1- pound package of lentils
Three finger pinch of salt.
2qts- vegetable broth or water*
1- 8 oz. can hot or mild Mexican tomato sauce (You can use regular tomato sauce and add chili power, cayenne pepper, or hot sauce to taste.)
1- tbsp tomato paste
1- 14 oz. can of dice or stewed tomatoes
In a heavy bottomed pot saute onions and garlic until translucent. If adding carrot, add first, brown, then add onions and garlic.
Add lentils Stir for two minutes. Add salt.
Add tomato sauce (hot spices or sauce) and tomatoes. Stir.
Add broth. Stir.
Cover and simmer for 10- 40 minutes until tender. Taste test lentils every ten minutes. If they over cook, they start to disintegrate.
Lentils will absorb liquid as they cook. If they start to dry out add a little more broth or water.
To decrease cooking time you can soak the lentils for a few hours. Just place in a bowl and barely cover with room temperature water.
Serve as is or add cooked rice, crushed tortilla chips, or grated cheese.
*For the meat version, substitute beef or chicken broth and add 1/2 to 3/4 pound of good chorizo in chunks. Depending on the fat content, you may have to skim the melted fat or chill and remove the solidified fat.