Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lentils, who knew?

When you hear the word "lentil", I'm almost positive you don't start salivating, drooling or dreaming about lentily goodness. You probably don't picture anything in your mind. Maybe when you hear the word "lentil", you remember the story of Esau who traded his birthright in exchange for a bowl of lentil stew, which seems rather absurd to most people. I would have to say that pre-vegan days I would have had little regard for lentils. What is a lentil? What do I do with it? These are the questions I would have been asking. So as the times change, so do I and I am now a big fan of the lentil. Another food (much like split pea soup) that I thought was disgusting and not worth my time. Here is a brief history of the lentil....

Lentils are considered to be one of the oldest cultivated crops with evidence of their domestication going back 5,000 years. Objects like your camera lens and the lens in your eye are actually shaped like lentils and therefore are named after them, not vice versa. They are mentioned frequently in literature throughout history. Even the infamous Greek gastronome Apicius had several recipes for lentils. They were the food of the rich and poor alike. There are current studies showing that Great Britain experienced a Mini Ice Age; from the 16th to 19th centuries where the climate was too cold for warm-season loving plants like lentils to grow. These findings are even backed up by insect, fish and many public records of the time. In Hungary, traditionally a pork and lentil stew is eaten after midnight on Dec. 31 to ensure financial success in the New Year, both pork and lentils being symbols of prosperity. Many cultures consider lentils as poverty food although they were buried in tombs with the pharaohs. The Egyptians even used them as packing material before the invention of those pesky Styrofoam peanuts. Over 100 tons of lentils were used to ship an obelisk from Egypt to Vatican City. Pretty neat, huh? Who knew the lentil was so interesting. Lentils are are a great source of protein, as much as 18g of protein in one cup of boiled lentils (that's amazing!).

The whole point of this entry is to share with you my FAVORITE lentil recipe, I made it up myself. I wanted to make all day chili, so thinking I had pinto beans I got out my crock pot and started digging through my cabinet, only to discover no pinto beans. No beans of any kind. I did however find half a bag of dried lentils leftover from some meal I had prepared. So I created Lentil Chili!! Here's the recipe....

In crock pot combine:
1 1/8 cup dried lentils (I prefer the green ones, they hold up better)
1/2 cup Texmatti Brown Rice
1/2 cup TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein, you could substitute 1/2-1 lb gr. beef or turkey)
1 14.5 oz can Diced Tomatoes
1 large Onion, diced
chili powder
garlic powder
6-8 cups Water

Cook on low for 6-8 hours, stirring occasionally. The lentils will soak up all the water you add, so depending on how many people you are serving add water accordingly.

This is a very hearty recipe and goes along well with corn bread, crackers or tortillas. It's also very inexpensive to make, lentils are about $.79 for a 1 lb bag. Which is why lentils were considered a paupers fare!

Do you have any lentil recipes you want to share? I am always looking for new ways to prepare these delectable legumes.


Kimba said...

Ok you've enticed me. I actually love making chili and might even give this recipe a try. :) The true test will be if my husband and kids eat it so I will let you know. But honestly you had me at $.79/lb. lol

Chocolate or Not? said...

Yeah, I'd much rather use lentils for packing peanuts! However, your post has kind of struck some curiosity in me, and I might actually give this recipe a try!