I wouldn’t say that I’ve been obsessed with the Olympics, but I’m checking in on my favorite events every evening. One of the best parts of the whole experience is seeing images of Russia and invariably, my mind drifts off to the food. Not that I’d ever buy black caviar, even if I could afford it, but I love the idea of it perched on top of a potato pancake smeared with creme fraiche. I made a truly Northwest version from our very own black beluga lentils, simmered with Pacific kombu (an edible kelp) and sea salt. Considering the price of real caviar and the speed at which I devoured these, black lentils are definitely the way to go for a perfect Olympic viewing snack.
Black Beluga Lentil “Caviar”
Ingredients: 1/2 cup black lentils/ 2 cups water/ 2-3 pieces dried kombu seaweed/ 1 t sea salt/ 1 1/2T olive oil
Directions: Rinse lentils and combine with water, kombu & salt/ Bring to a boil, turn the heat down and simmer for 20-25 minutes, they should be tender but still hold their shape/ Cool in the cooking liquid/ Drain, discard kombu and stir in olive oil.
Until recently lentils haven’t been a big part of my recipe repertoire. I don’t remember ever eating them as a child. The wave of vegetarian cookbooks that came out in the late seventies was my first introduction to this amazingly nutritious, inexpensive and ancient legume. Not to mention, they’re simple to cook — no soaking needed, just add water, simmer for about 25 minutes, drain and you’re good to go. The introduction of the French green and black ones have elevated the status of lentils so that now you’ll find loads of recipes beyond soups and stews. Here’s an excellent compilation of some unusual lentil recipes, including a version of the “caviar” above.
If you have less than a cup of any variety of lentil sitting in your pantry, throw them into this comforting coconut curry soup for an easy but delicious weeknight meal.
Chicken Lentil Coconut Curry Soup
Ingredients: 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed/ 2 cups or so leftover roasted chicken/ 2T olive oil/ About 2T curry paste, to taste – I used yellow which is fairly mild, if you use red, I’d add a little at a time until you reach the desired heat/ 2/3 cup dried lentils/ 1 can coconut milk/ 2 1/2 cups chicken broth/ bunch of spinach or chard, washed/ juice of one lime/ cilantro leaves for garnish.
Directions: Heat oil in large soup pot over medium high heat/ Add curry paste, cook and stir for about a minute/ Add chicken (if it hasn’t been previously cooked), cook and stir for about 5 minutes/ Add sweet potatoes and lentils, stir to coat/ Add broth and coconut milk and bring to a boil/ Reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer for 20 – 25 minutes, until sweet potatoes and lentils are tender/ If you’re using cooked chicken, add now/ Stir in chard or spinach, letting it just wilt/ Remove from heat, add lime juice and cilantro garnish/ Serve as soup or spoon over rice.
Here are a few more recipes from past posts to elevate your view of lentils:
A version of Melissa Clark’s Lentil Soup with Lemon, an excellent use for red lentils.
Belugas are gorgeous in this Pumpkin, Black Lentil and Goat Cheese Salad.
Sally’s version of Tom Douglas’ Pan Roasted Halibut with Toasted Bread Crumb Salad & Green Lentils.
Next spring/summer try this Strawberry Lentil Salad.