Quick Weeknight Dinner – Red Lentils

Lentils.  Quick to cook, versatile, tasty, and healthy for you.  A perfect ingredient for a quick weeknight dinner on a gym night where you haven’t had time to make anything because you watched a very important Newcastle match against Blackburn in the late afternoon.  (Btw, Newcastle won and moved up to 5th in the EPL table.)  Back to the lentils.  I like lentils a lot.  You can cook them in the winter and serve them warm, you can cook them in the summer and make a cold salad, you can add them to soups, lots of options with lentils.  Some hot and sweet sausage is the usual pairing with my lentils.  There’s something about the fatty, saltiness with the earthy lentils that just works.  Actually any type of sausage will go with lentils.  Kielbasa, bratwurst, knackwurst, pick your favorite!

While I find lentils relatively easy to cook you have to be very observant when cooking them.  You don’t want to cook them too long or they get mushy.  You also don’t want to cook them in rapidly boiling water or they’ll burst apart.  Like beans you need to cook lentils gently so they stay whole and retain their body or else you just end up with a pot full of mush.  Trust me, I’ve had lots of trial an error with lentils!

Lentils are packed with protein and fiber so they’re healthy for you too.  And there are loads of different kinds of lentils.  Green, red, black, brown, you name it.  I think the standard bag of green ones you find in the grocery store are pretty hardy.  They plump up a bit more and can take more cooking time than the red ones I used tonight.  The red ones cook quickly, about the same amount of time it takes to cook some penne pasta, 10-12 minutes.

Like I said, the trick to cooking lentils is simmering, not boiling, and keeping your eye on them.  Once they’re cooked enough for you, drain them and set aside.  Make sure to keep ½ to ¾ of a cup of the cooking liquid too.  There’s flavor in there!  When you do get the hang of cooking lentils (and you should in no time) they’ll become a staple in your cupboard you can pull out at any time and add to any dinner.

Red Lentils – about 4 servings

  • 1 C dried lentils
  • 3 C salted water
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • ½ C chopped red onion
  • ¼ C peas
  • ½ tsp sage
  • ½-¾ C reserved cooking liquid
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • ¼ of lemon

Place the lentils and water in a pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to gentle simmer.  Cook for about 10 minutes, checking often for doneness. (Side Roam: for other types of lentils time will vary, I find the green ones take between 15-20 minutes)

When cooked drain and reserve the cooking water.  Set lentils aside.

In a sauté pan melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the chopped onion and sauté for about 5 minutes until soft.  Add the peas and sage, and mix.  Pour in the reserved cooking liquid and reduce by ½-¾.

Remove pan from the heat, add your lentils, and mix well.  Grate some lemon zest onto the lentils and finish by squeezing some lemon juice over them.  The acid makes this dish come alive.

Serve with your favorite sausage for a delicious dinner.

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