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Like many folks of Italian origin, lentils were served in my home in the New Year to represent luck and good fortune, as symbolized by the small, coin-like appearance of these little powerhouse pulses. But, to me, as a home-cooking mama, the real currency of lentils is that they’re one of the best sources of plant-based protein around, at 18 grams per cup. Not to mention that they are also rich in fiber and minerals (especially manganese, iron and phosphorus) and have excellent alkalizing properties helpful in balancing the body’s pH. To further digress, lentils—a staple of Middle Eastern and Indian cooking for thousands of years—are actually known to be one of the oldest crops on record (first cultivated around 15,000 years ago).
Yet spectacular health-giving properties and historic rock star status still undersell their appeal. One can easily afford to spread the wealth of lentils far and wide. At 15 cents a serving, we are talking an economic-valuation for the home cook of, well…a gagillion!
Make it once, then eat it throughout the week. Here are some ideas:
When it’s hot off the press, serve as a main course showered with crispy caramelized onions, and a big dollop of plain thick yogurt. With a green salad on the side, even your most ardent meat eaters will be filled up and think it’s delicious, too.
Not to be boring or predictable, but fried eggs on top are good for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. So #putaneggonit.
Combine a cup or so with an egg and 1/4 cup flour. Form into patties, and fry in olive oil. Drizzle with pomegranate molasses or honey mixed with a splash of vinegar.
Combine cold in a salad with a couple tablespoons of your favorite vinaigrette mixed with peeled and chopped cucumbers, and a handful of fresh chopped dill.
Last but not least, take whatever is left and make it part of a mezze platter along with hummus, Israeli chopped salad, yogurt-cucumber dip (and olives, capers, or pickles, too, if you like), and pita bread.
Lucinda Scala Quinn is the author of numerous cookbooks, including the Mad Hungry trilogy—Mad Hungry Family: 120 Essential Recipe to Feed the Whole Crew, Mad Hungry: Feeding Men & Boys, and Mad Hungry Cravings—and appears regularly on both morning television and QVC with her top-selling Mad Hungry Kitchenware line. Lucinda is the former senior vice president and executive editorial director of food and entertaining at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and the host of her own television show, Mad Hungry: Bringing Back the Family Meal. She lives and cooks with her husband and three sons in New York City.
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How would you re-purpose spiced lentils and rice? Let us know in the comments.