Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Weeknight Moroccan Lentils

Weeknight meals are tough. Just like anyone, I frequently battle to get dinner on the table at a reasonable time1 during the week. That's what makes recipes like this one so special. Not only is it easy, but it also exclusively uses stuff that I always have hanging around my pantry, so it's perfect for those nights when I come home without a plan. Looking for something filling, cheap, and healthy—oh yeah, and tasty too? These lentils are up to the task.

But in general, how do we escape the ramen-every-night mentality that's all too easy to fall into? It all starts with the pantry. A smartly-stocked pantry can make all the difference when you're in a pinch. Onions and garlic are so universally useful that you should always have some on hand. Dried grains and legumes are a great source of hearty protein for when you forgot to take the meat out of the freezer last night (oops…). Canned tomatoes can add savory depth or a vibrant punch to whatever you're making, plus they last forever. And spices… how can you properly live without spices?

This recipe manages to take advantage of all these pantry essentials, making it one of my true go-to recipes. Plus, unlike their beany brethren, the little lentils cook quickly enough that you can chow down within an hour, easy.

Weeknight Moroccan Lentils

adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything

2 tbspOil
  1. Cook onion in dutch oven until softened, about 5-7 minutes.
1Onion, chopped
2 tspGarlic, minced
  1. Stir in garlic and spices and cook another minute.
1 tspTurmeric
1 stick (or 1 tsp ground)Cinnamon
1 tsp (whole or ground)Cumin
2 cupChicken stock
  1. Add lentils and stock, along with enough water to cover.
  2. Bring to a simmer and cook until lentils are just tender, about 25 minutes, adding more water if needed.
1 cupDried brown lentils
14 ozCanned diced tomatoes
  1. Stir in the tomatoes and simmer 10 minutes to meld the flavors. Season with salt and pepper.

This recipe is nice and simple, so I'll keep this to the point. First soften the onion in the dutch oven for a few minutes, then toss in the garlic and spices to toast for another minute or so. Toss in the lentils, add the stock and enough water to cover, and bring to a low simmer (don't add the tomato yet!2). Simmer for about 25 minutes, or until the lentils are as tender or toothsome as you like. Add in the tomatoes (which will mostly halt the cooking), and simmer long enough to meld the flavors, 5-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper as needed, and heap atop a mound of beautiful white rice.

  1. 9:00 pm is reasonable, right? 

  2. Tart tomatoes harbor acid that slows the cooking of legumes by slowing the dissolving of their cell walls. This is doubly true for canned tomatoes, which have added citric acid. 

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