Here is a recipe. Finally.
This recipe confronts the problem of lunch. Dinners are easy. There are a million things to have for dinner, but lunch is a different matter, especially if you want to eat an economical and healthy lunch. Usually, we eat leftovers or peanut butter sandwiches. Occasionally, however, there are no leftovers and no makings for sandwiches. On one such lean day I opened my cupboards and spied nothing but a jar of lentils. In a burst of hunger I cooked the lentils, sauteed some celery, carrots, and onion, and stirred it all together with a little extra dose of olive oil. Rowan and I ate it with great satisfaction thirty minutes later, and then continued to eat it for lunch for three consecutive days.
It is hard to be more economical than that. But if you happen to have some brown rice languishing in the fridge (I have really been looking forward to writing about food "languishing"), then you can transform the plain jane lentils into a really wonderful salad--one that I am not ashamed to serve even for dinner with some bread and a glass of wine. The second recipe is from a rice-cooker cookbook by Beth Henderson. She adapted the recipe from her favorite lunch at the Chez Panisse cafe.
A note on lentils:
When I first began cooking lentils, way back in the days of the McKenzie Study Center kitchen, I seemed to inevitably serve lentils in one of two unpleasant forms-overcooked, or undercooked. I have to say that few things can make a gigantic pot of watery, mushy lentils palatable, not even sausage. Or the appetite of a hungry college student. I have since discovered French Green (Puy) lentils. These changed my lentil life, and even though I have come to like other lentils, properly cooked, I truly adore these lentils. They are small and firm and rustic and flavorful. They are also pretty difficult to ruin. I have had the best luck finding them in the bulk section of grocery stores.
Serves 4 (or makes a few good lunches)
1 cup of green lentils
2 or more cups of water (or chicken/vegetable stock)
1 teaspoon salt (less if using stock)
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 bay leaf
A sprig of thyme or rosemary (optional)
Rinse lentils and pick through them. Place the lentils in a medium pot and add the water, salt, garlic and bay leaf. (If I am going to eat these in a simple form, I like to cook them in chicken stock for a little extra flavor.) Bring them to a boil and then reduce the heat, simmering the lentils until they are fully cooked and most of the water is nearly absorbed, about 15-20 minutes. Add more water while they are cooking if necessary. Remove from the heat and discard the garlic and the bay leaf.
Now you have a couple of choices. You can eat the lentils straight out of the pot, or you can add some briefly sauteed carrots, celery and onions and drizzle with olive oil. You can also use them in the following recipe.
Lentil and Brown Rice Salad
Adapted from The Ultimate Rice-Cooker Cookbook, by Beth Henderson
1 recipe cooked rustic green lentils
2 cups of room temperature cooked brown rice (she recommends Brown Jasmine and it is delicious)
3 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
1/3 cup red onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
3 tablespoons chopped raisins
3 tablespoons chopped walnuts
5 ounces of feta cheese
3/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
Make a quick vinaigrette by whisking together the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Set aside.
Combine the lentils, rice, green onions, celery, red onion, parsley, raisins and walnuts in a big bowl. Toss with the vinaigrette, using enough to coat the salad lightly. Let stand at room temperature to develop the flavors for up to one hour, or cover and place in the fridge. Serve at room temperature, topped with the feta cheese and accompanied with bread and butter.