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Published October 01, 2013, 10:00 PM

Halgrimson: Lentil recipes for a tasty vegetarian meal

We are eating more vegetarian meals at our house. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to give up fish, fowl or steak tartare.

By: Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, INFORUM

We are eating more vegetarian meals at our house. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to give up fish, fowl or steak tartare.

Recently, an old friend asked me if I could feature some vegetarian recipes in this column. We had received a large bag of red lentils, and I found several recipes that appealed to us.

Lentils offer the same nutritional benefits as any other bean. They come in a number of varieties and are an ancient source of food. Aside from red, lentils can be brown, green or yellow. The green and brown lentils take about 35 to 45 minutes to cook, and the red and yellow ones only 15 to 20 minutes.

Like other beans, lentils are usually purchased dried, and while they may be soaked to reduce cooking time, it’s not necessary. They should be washed and picked over before cooking. I recommend trying them in salads, too.

If you’d like to learn more about vegetarian cooking, “Diet for a Small Planet,” by France’s Moore Lappe is a good resource. And I like the following cookbooks for recipes: “Recipes for a Small Planet,” by Ellen Buchman Ewald and “The Vegetarian Epicure,” by Anna Thomas, two volumes. And if you want to add a nice flavor to soups and stews, try Knorr’s vegetable bouillon.

SPICY LENTIL DAHL

Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup finely chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger

4 cups water or vegetable broth

1 cup dried red lentils, rinsed and picked over

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon coriander

1 teaspoon tumeric

¼ teaspoon cardamom

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons tomato paste

In a medium-sized soup pot, heat oil over medium heat. Once oil is hot, add onion, garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring often, until onions are softened.

Stirring constantly, add liquid, lentils, spices and salt. Bring to a low boil, then turn heat to low, cover and let the soup simmer for about 20 minutes or until lentils are very tender.

Stir in tomato paste until well combined. Cook several minutes more or until the soup is desired temperature and consistency, adding more water if needed.

Serve hot with bread and garnish with yogurt.

RED LENTIL HUMMUS

2 cups water

1 cup dried red lentils, washed and picked over

2 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped

3 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste)

5 tablespoons olive oil

¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat water in a small saucepan over high heat until boiling. Add lentils and reduce heat to low. Simmer until almost all of the liquid has been absorbed, about 15 minutes. Drain through a fine mesh strainer and let cool to room temperature.

Put lentils, garlic and tahini in a food processor and whiz until lentils are broken up. With the motor running, add oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and blend until evenly incorporated. Scrape down sides of bowl and blend for 40 seconds more or until smooth.

The hummus can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to a week.

Sources: http://dairyfreecooking.about.com/; www.bbcgoodfood.com/glossary/lentils; www.chow.com/recipes/14110-red-lentil-hummus

Readers can reach Forum columnist Andrea Hunter Halgrimson at ahalgrimson@forumcomm.com

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