The Marvelous and Mischievous Lentil

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It’s the new year—and you probably have all kinds of ambitions. You want to eat healthy. You want to cook more, but you also want to save time and money. Well, let me introduce you to a mischievous little legume who can help make all that happen.

State-of-the-art graphics by Peter the Kat

Lentils are fantastic little edibles. They’re super cheap, filling, and they cook FAST. If you’re on the quest to lose weight in 2010, consider subbing lentils for rice or potatoes as a side dish. As you can see from my uber-professional nutritional analysis above, a serving of lentils has less than half the calories of rice, tons more fiber, fewer carbs, and more protein. And…like this stew, the leftovers are even better, because the lentils soak up flavor. I used cooked leftover ham in the recipe below, but you could easily substitute smoked turkey sausage to make it even healthier. Despite their superior nutritional profile, lentils do have one mischievous drawback, which we will discuss in just a minute. But first, let’s get cookin!

Dice your carrots and onions so they are approximately the same size as the lentils.

Hearty Ham and Lentil Stew
1 large onion, diced
4 carrots, diced
2 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried thyme
1 bag of dried lentils (2 cups)
2 cups cooked ham, chopped
1 box of chicken broth
3 cups of water

Go ahead and get your knife-work out of the way by dicing your onions and carrots. If you want to cut even more prep time, you can use pre-diced onion and buy pre-cut carrot sticks, which will speed up the dicing process. Add the olive oil to your Dutch oven, get it to medium heat, and add your onion, half a TSP of salt, quarter TSP of pepper, and the thyme and bay. Cook for five minutes, then add the carrots and cook for five more. Next, add in the ham (or turkey sausage) and cook for a few more minutes, melding your flavors.

Lentils are a member of the "brown food group."

Then, toss in the lentils. You can add the broth and water first if you like, but I like to throw the lentils in dry, so they can get coated with the pan juices first, like risotto (I have no idea if this makes a difference or not…it just makes me happy so I do it.). After you’ve turned the lentils and gotten them nice and coated, add your broth and two cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for twenty minutes, adding an extra cup of water if you feel it needs loosening up. I usually add more salt and pepper, too…just season to taste. Serve with toasted garlic bread or cornbread, and perhaps a simple salad.

Bowl of brown. Lentils are not photogenic, sorry.

Lentils are AWESOME, butt…
So I mentioned earlier that lentils do have one drawback. I’m sure there is a delicate way to say this, and a scientific explanation, but who has time for that? Here’s the truth: lentils give you gas. There is no escaping that simple fact. If you eat lentils, you will pass gas. Cause, effect. I say this not to discourage you, simply to help you plan. Do not prepare this stew for dinner and expect to attend a cocktail party afterward. You will embarrass yourself. Consider this your friendly Kitchen Mischief Warning Label.

I hope you enjoy this stew—and seriously, don’t be afraid of the side effects.  All good food has side effects. Red wine stains your teeth. Bacon clogs your arteries. And lentils make you poot. But with all the flavor and healthy benefits, it’s not a bad trade—just stay at home and preserve your dignity. 😉

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12 Responses to “The Marvelous and Mischievous Lentil”

  1. judith Says:

    I dont think I like lentils…because of my perceived concept of their texture–but you make this sound yummy, so I may be tempted to make this stew. So you wouldnt advise taking this dish to the next covered dish supper at church???

  2. Jennie Says:

    Nice Post Josh!

  3. josh Says:
  4. Jackie Says:

    Delicious! Watch out for fiber one bars too – not to be eaten for breakfast if you are going to spend the day amongst others!

    • josh Says:

      LOL…Jackie you are so right. I finally had to stop eating the Fiber One bars. They were inappropriate for office consumption. 😉

  5. Jessica Otwell Says:

    This looks so good, I’m def going to try it. Thanks!

  6. Jackie Says:

    Just tried this one it is AWESOME! Used the turkey saussage and for my own mischief, added peas. YUM! Thanks Josh!

  7. stig Says:

    Lentils, unlike other legumes, don’t have any sulfur, so actually they won’t make you fart like other beans….

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