This meal is as delicious as it is healthy! If you have a grocery store that leans a little bit to the healthy side, chances are that they have a bulk food section. I am lucky enough to live within walking distance of Earth Fare, a local NC healthy food store that has an excellent bulk items section. Don’t let bulk items intimidate you. Get a closer look – check out the prices! The low price alone should be reason enough to inspire you to test out a new grain or legume.
A few weeks ago, I was drawn to the French lentils for no other reason than that they looked harmless and I liked the name. When I got home I found a webpage devoted to lentils – truly someone took the time to identify a dozen (or more) different types of lentils. I learned that French lentils have a great flavor and hold their shape better than other lentils although they do take a little bit longer to cook. I have previously cooked with the basic brown lentils that you see on supermarket shelves everywhere – those are quick and easy to cook, but if you forget about them simmering on the stove they do turn a bit mushy. Since I planned to cook my French lentils with brown basmati rice, I figured both the brown rice and the sturdier lentils would probably be a good combination and take about the same amount of time to cook. Luckily for me, I was right.
For the lentils and brown basmati rice … I combined two cups of lentils and 1 cup of rice in a small pan and added 3 1/2 cups of broth, brought the broth to a boil, reduced the heat to low, covered the pan, and let the lentils and rice simmer for about 40 minutes. Season the lentils and rice with garam masala if you want a little Indian flavor, or add some cumin, or even just a little salt to keep it simple.
|Ready to be caramelized…|
Caramelized onions: If you would like to fancy up this side dish and turn it into a main course, caramelize some onions. Every time I caramelize onions, I worry that I am cutting up too many onions and every time I actually could have safely cut up even MORE onions. Slice about 4 onions so that you get nice thin rings. Toss the onions in a heavy handed amount of olive oil in a sturdy bottomed pan and bring the heat up to medium/medium high. It usually takes me about forty minutes to caramelize onions. To reduce the amount of time I am in the kitchen, I try to prep the onions ahead of time and have them ready and waiting when it is time to cook dinner. At that point, the only attention they will need is for you to stir the onions as they cook. You want them to get very, very dark and brown – almost burnt. When the onions are sufficiently caramelized, you can use them to top your lentils and brown rice alongside some freshly diced tomatoes and cucumbers.
Diced tomatoes and cucumbers: Finely chop one large tomato and one large cucumber. We added some chopped garlic and onion greens as well as some fresh parsley from our garden – you could also add scallions, cilantro, or other fresh herbs. Toss everything with a little bit of olive oil, red wine vinegar, and sea salt. Serve over the lentils, brown rice, and caramelized onions. Enjoy!
General lentil information: Lentils can be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to a year. Cooked lentils can keep in your fridge for a few days.