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Red Lentils with Spinach and Caramelized Onions

Lately, we’ve been eating more legumes – beans, peas, lentils, all soaked and/or sprouted, and all very delicious.

And, if you care about such things, full of prebiotic goodness in the form of resistant starch.

(If you’re worried about the whole “legumes aren’t paleo!” thing, Chris Kresser has a thing or three to say about that and, quite frankly, I no longer give a big rat’s patootie if they are or not. So shoot me.)

Whatever.

Reintroducing legumes to our diet makes me happy, because I’ve always loved them.  A good thing, since growing up in a blue collar Texas household, we ate a lot of them.  They are tasty, cheap, filling and certainly better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, nutritionally speaking, especially when properly prepared. (If, that is, you tolerate them reasonably well.)

However, I never ate lentils growing up – legumes in our house were almost always pinto beans or black-eyed peas, with the occasional foray into navy  or black beans, depending on whether we were eating ham or something Mexican.  Even into adulthood, I’d never given lentils much thought – which is really a shame, because they’re really very tasty and cook much more quickly than other legumes, especially when they’ve been soaked or sprouted.

So, once a week or so while I’m cooking dinner, I whip out a package of lentils (or, if the truth be known, quinoa or brown rice) and combine them with filtered water (at about a 2:1 ratio – twice as much water as lentils), a tablespoon or so of homemade yogurt, cover the container with a clean dish cloth and let them sit out on the counter until the next evening when it’s time to cook dinner again.

They’re not at all difficult to make, they just take a little forethought. And are fairly inexpensive, especially if you purchase them in bulk.

This particular dish, made with red lentils (that are really more pinkish-orange and turn yellow when cooked), caramelized onions and spinach is one of our favorites.  It’s simple, reasonably quick to prepare, versatile – in the photo below, I served it with pan-roasted venison loin, but it would be equally delicious with poultry or fish – and quite delicious.  Leftovers reheat well, too; the next day at work, my coworkers kept wandering past my office (no small feat, since it’s at the end of a hall), going, “What are you eating? It smells wonderful!”

Lesson learned? Make this, and your coworkers will be jealous.

Note: If you don’t have the time or inclination – or forgot – to soak the lentils, you can buy them pre-sprouted and dried, although they’re not exactly cheap.  Please take note that the package will say to cook them for 4 to 5 minutes, but I can tell you from experience they won’t be done.  Cook them 15 to 20 minutes.

This can also be easily made vegetarian/vegan by substituting the ghee or butter with olive oil and the chicken stock/broth with vegetable stock.

Red Lentils with Spinach and Caramelized Onions. It may require a little planning, but this simple side dish is easy, versatile and quite delicious.

Click the image to enlarge

Red Lentils with Spinach and Caramelized Onions
 
Serves: 4 to 6
Ingredients
  • 1 large onion, very thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or butter
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup red lentils, soaked for 12 to 24 hours (measured before soaking)
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock or broth, preferably homemade
  • 4 cups fresh spinach, stems removed and roughly chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Melt the ghee or butter in a medium saute pan or skillet over medium low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and golden brown, about 15 minutes. Stir in the balsamic vinegar; remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Drain the lentils and rinse thoroughly. Combine with the chicken broth and carrot in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer until the lentils are done, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Uncover the lentils and stir; they should be very soft and a little soupy. Stir in the spinach and caramelized onions; continue cooking over low heat until the spinach is wilted and the onions are heated through, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover with a clean dish towel, then the lid and set aside for 10 minutes.
  4. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 195 calories, 5g total fat, 12mg cholesterol, 115.2mg sodium, 565.2mg potassium, 26.9g carbohydrates, 11g fiber, 4.5g sugar, 10.8g protein





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