Cooking with legumes takes some planning. Remembering to soak beans and allowing enough time to cook them slowly with gentle heat assures flavorful, tender beans, but often busy people just don't have the time. Canned beans come to the rescue. Lentils offer an alternative to canned beans. They come in a colorful variety, are jam packed with protein and nutrition, cook quickly and require no pre-soaking. But I suspect, the lowly lentil is neglected by many of us.
I recently remembered making a great lentil chili from one of Mollie Katzen's books many years ago. It was delicious served over egg noodles drizzled with a little aged balsamic vinegar and I recalled that the preparation called for a lot of garlic, something like 10 -12 cloves. After scouring my bookshelves, I realized over the years some loaned vegetarian cookbooks never came home to roost. Still Life with Menu is one of them, unfortunately. But on the bright side, hopefully, whoever has it is cooking up a storm of tasty, healthful meals. Thanks to modern technology, a simple on-line search found the recipe on Mollie Katzen's website. The ingredient list appeared to have changed slightly. Where, I wondered, had the many cloves of garlic gone? I made half the quantity specified - working with 2 cups of lentils not four and I adjusted the liquid accordingly. I used 4 cups of homemade veggie stock I had on hand and added a bit of filtered water as the lentils cooked. I used 4 large cloves of garlic, minced and one medium onion, diced, and followed the suggestions for the herbs and spices, though, in fact, I used smoked paprika as well as a liberal spoonful of Mexican hot chili powder in addition to the cumin and thyme called for in the recipe. You can play with the seasonings to suit your palate. I added a touch of balsamic vinegar at serving time and Mollie's lentil chili tasted as wonderful as I remembered it. Give it a try. This is a fabulous meal, easily prepared for pennies. The leftovers are even better reheated and it freezes well, too.
Then there are the nights when you just don't feel like cooking anything, right? We've all been there and our solutions are sometimes pretty lame. Zip through a fast food drive-in on the way home, call for take out, pick on snack food. How about a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich with something green?
With a little twist to the common grilled cheese sandwich, a quesadilla fills the bill nicely especially if you've some interesting tortillas on hand. This little number is comprised of the end of a piece of Harvati grated and a sliced tomato. The broccoli and red pepper are cooked with a sprinkling of crushed red pepper and slices of shallot and garlic in a little olive oil and 1/3 cup of water. They were ready in 5 minutes with the one-pot steam/sauté trick. I don't consider the ten minutes it took to prepare and cook the above plate of food really cooking...and look -- four servings of veggies and the torts are whole wheat with green onion. Nice and healthy. Next time you don't feel like cooking, think of something fast and easy like the food pictured above. It's quick, easy, and to top it off, it's a budget pleaser as well.
Till next time . . . keep on cooking.