Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Legumes for a Winter's Lunch

I have two favorite winter lunches, beloved for their warmth, simplicity and speed of preparation. They are Black Beans and Curried Lentils. Both are simultaneously light and hearty, have a soupy consistency and cook up in 20 minutes or less. And the leftovers are even better - just boil gently for a few minutes in a small saucepan with an extra splash of water.

To make black beans all you really need is a can of beans, a clove of garlic and some onion. If you've got some cilantro or a jalapeno rolling around your vegetable drawer you can add them but don't abandon the recipe if you've got no green. I don't care for dairy on my legumes and I rarely have cotija on hand, but a smidgen of that is quite delightful. Here's that recipe:

Black Beans
Print recipe only here

Serves 1-2 for lunch

1-2 t canola oil
1 clove garlic, pressed
1/4 to 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
One can black beans

1 T cilantro, finely chopped
1 T cotija, crumbled or grated or sour cream

Heat the canola oil over medium heat in a small-medium saucepan. Add the onion and garlic and gently saute - about 2-3 minutes.  Add the beans and stir to combine. Cook for about 5-7 minutes.  Add cilantro, and salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer to a bowl and top with cotjia or a small dollop of light sour cream if you must.

Now, the curried lentils. I'm sure this hinges on a good curry powder. I use the sweet (mild) curry powder from the Spice House.  And I add a dash of chili flakes which don't add heat, just a bit of excitement. I use chili flakes like salt and pepper - just for the slightest kick - adding them to a saute pan along with garlic or onions.  As for the legume part, I've been buying the beautiful red lentils from the bulk bins at Whole Foods. This is a great description of the differences between lentil colors/varieties, pulled from the Mayo Clinic's nutrition pages:

Brown lentils. The least expensive, they soften when cooked and can become mushy. Use for soups.
Green lentils. Also called French lentils, these have a nuttier flavor and stay firm when cooked. Green lentils are the best choice for salads.
Red lentils. The fastest cooking, these lose their shape and turn golden when cooked. They taste milder and sweeter than green lentils. Use them for purees and Indian dals.
Anyhoo, the red are a great choice for lunch since they're ready in 15-20 minutes. Here's that recipe:

Masoor Dal, or Curried Lentils
Print recipe only here

Serves 1-2 for lunch

3 ounces red lentils (about 1/3 cup)
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/2 t salt
1-2 t canola oil
pinch of chili flakes
2 t sweet curry powder
1 1/2 cups water

In a small or medium saucepan, heat the oil. When hot, add the chili flakes. When the pepper darkens, add the curry powder and the onion. Saute for 1-2 minutes. Add water, lentils and salt to the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cover. Cook for 10-15 minutes. Taste for seasoning, adding more curry or salt as necessary.

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