Red lentils are one of my staple legumes. They are wonderfully cheap, cook quickly, and look so darn pretty in a jar on the shelf. When I know I have a busy week ahead of me, I will often cook a few cups to keep in the fridge. I puree them into dips, use them to add bulk to lunchtime salads, or slip them to blended soups that I know could use some extra substance and thickening.
Pre-cooking lentils takes absolutely no time at all. I typically do it while I’m cleaning up from dinner, knowing that they’ll be done long before I do my final counter-wipe. Here’s how I do it.
Growing up, my two sisters and I chanted loudly for foods most kids would grimace at. Lima beans in a stew of tomato paste and water, crushed garbanzo beans, chopped parsley. And the sounds that came from our mouths weren’t exactly words, but garbled attempts to pronounce the Arabic dishes we craved.
“It’s mmmmjuddara,” I said, of the traditional aromatic lentil and rice dish called mujadara (which has several alternate spellings), “As in mmmmm, yummy.”
“No, it’s juddarrrrrrra,” my sister replied, rolling her Rs.
We constantly begged my grandmother for Syrian dishes like fateyer (thick, buttery dough stuffed with minced lamb and pine nuts), hushwi (Syrian stuffing made from rice, lamb, pine nuts and spices – most notably cinnamon), tabouli (salad of chopped parsley, tomatoes, and bulgur wheat), hummus, ma’moul (heavy Semolina dough filled with nuts and rosewater and dusted with powdered sugar) or one of our favorites, a mysterious dish called lamtung. One night I asked my parents what it actually was. MORE
Like so many folks these days, my husband and I have been trying to reduce the amount of meat we eat. We were both raised in families for whom animal protein was nearly always at the center of the plate and so this shift has required some retraining. We’ve had to change our understanding of mains and sides, and learn how to transform basic vegetable preparations into dishes that are both satiating and satisfying.
Happily, there’ve have been a number of cookbooks published in recent years that focuses on helping meat-eaters learn these skills and tricks. One author of such cookbooks is Kim O’Donnel. In 2010, she published The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook: Vegetarian Recipes Carnivores Will Devour and, last month, followed it up with The Meat Lover’s Meatless Celebrations: Year-Round Vegetarian Feasts (You Can Really Sink Your Teeth Into). MORE