Sear, Simmer & Stir

Life, style & food in the District

The Lentilist: Cooking with the “super-natural” and super-hearty legume

Using lentils as my medium in a (somewhat) vegetarian lifestyle

First off, I would like to apologize for the punny headline and subhead. It’s something I was born with, people, and I can’t help it.

Now let’s get down to business.

Northwest D.C. experienced some snow and ice this weekend, which automatically inspired me to stay in my soft clothes, pay-off a dreaded pile of bills, catch-up on crappy TV, read the Post, and of course, cook-up something warm, comforting and hearty.

These past few months, I’ve been more-and-more motivated to cook and embrace a vegetarian lifestyle. I don’t think I could ever make the complete leap from my current omnivorous state to full-on vegetarian, but I am really trying to cook and incorporate vegetarian meals and dishes into my daily diet.

This inclination comes from a few different lines of practice and reasoning.

For one, buying quality (ideally, grass fed/humanely-raised/local..yadda, yadda, yadda) meat these days is incredibly expensive. Because of this reason, alone, we usually only buy and cook one meat dish per week (thank the stars for leftovers). And lately, I feel as though my tastes for meat have even changed. I don’t think I could ever give up a perfectly seared medium-rare filet mignon, a super juicy hamburger cooked over charcoal in the summer air, or that forbidden treat of bacon crumbled over my Cobb salad (let’s be real – placed next to my banana pancakes)…. BUT, I rarely have any interest in cooking (or eating) chicken breasts or turkey burgers on a weeknight. I’d rather save the money and the pile of dishes for something else (like Chinese take-out or beer).

Lately, I’ve also been incredibly inspired (and well-fed) by a newish co-worker who happens to be an amazing vegetarian personal chef. I swear that girl could make tofu and tempeh taste like chocolate cake, if she wanted. (Actually, that reminds me of this amazing “chocolate pudding” she makes with nothing but avocados and cocoa… I need to get that recipe.) But seriously, she’s made me love vegetarian cuisine more than my ol’ Moosewood ever did…

And lastly, did I mention money? All I have to say is, tonight’s meal–of which made a giant pot–cost me less than $5 at Whole Foods… And we will be eating it all week…

During these past few months of working with Rachel (aforementioned amazing vegetarian chef who has an equally awesome name), I’ve had the pleasure to sample an array of delicious and wildly different lentil dishes. I don’t have any of her recipes in my possession (I keep telling her she needs to write them down, publish a cookbook and sell that shit), but I do remember one lentil dish I especially liked was very tomato-ey… and so that is the direction in which I ventured. The final dish I made turned into something more like a stew or chili, but I am very happy with it! (Wiping mouth with napkin and ignoring screams and throwing of furniture coming from my Pats-loving husband…)

So here is what I did (Sorry – measurements are not exact, but the beauty of cooking is improvising and creating!):

  • Cook the lentils a few minutes short of the package’s instructions (you don’t want them to become too mushy when they stew with the other goodies later on in the process) and drain them – Set aside.
  • Dice one large white onion and some carrots
  • Warm about 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and one tbsp of butter over medium heat (I used a Dutch oven)
  • Sauté the onions in the oil and butter until translucent (about 3-5 minutes)… Nothing smells better than onions cooking with extra virgin olive oil and butter
  • Add the carrots and sauté for about 5 minutes
  • Add some salt and pepper
  • Add a heaping spoon-full of chopped garlic
  • After this cooked for a minute or so, I noticed some goodies collecting on the bottom of the pan, so I added about 1 cup of white wine to deglaze the pan and cook with the veggies – This is also the perfect “juice” for the next ingredient to get all soft in!
  • Add some cut cherry tomatoes (do what you have or as many as you want)
  • Put the pan on the pot and let everything get soft and juicy…
  • Add in a good amount of cumin and some rosemary and crushed red pepper (yum!) – I used a lot of cumin… Maybe 2 or 3 tbsp?
  • Add in 2 cans of tomato paste and thin it a bit with some water
  • Add in cooked lentils and more water (as needed to achieve desired consistency) and simmer
  • Top off with a little more olive oil (stir in)
  • Serve with crusty bread, some good (albeit, cheap) wine and enjoy!

My bike and snowy D.C. (sadly, the covered pool is in the background…)


My favorite cheap white wine to use in cooking! Trader Joe’s!

Stirring the pot…

“I’ll try it, even if it looks like deer turds!” – Kent Barnes, husband and meat-eater…. We are very mature around here…

My dinner!

I hope you enjoy and much as I did (and will this week)!

Until next time – Best wishes and vegetarian dishes!




2 comments on “The Lentilist: Cooking with the “super-natural” and super-hearty legume

  1. Pingback: Winter Happenings | Rachel Nania

  2. Josue Wunderlich
    April 4, 2013

    More and more people are choosing to eat a vegetarian diet because they know that veggies are healthful food. Using low calorie and vegetarian recipes is one of the most important things you can do to protect your heath and the health of your family since obesity is now an epidemic in the United States and other developed countries. Cooking them is still better than the alternatives to a vegetarian lifestyle or a vegan lifestyle, but we receive the most nutritional benefit from ingesting whole and organic raw foods. They will often include many of the vitamins, minerals, and sources of nutrition that every body needs. These low calorie recipes, usually high in fiber, protect against digestive disorders such as diverticulosis and may offer protection from colon and lung cancers. Many low calorie and vegetarian recipes use soy, tofu, dried beans and peas to add protein to meals. Using low calorie recipes will provide a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, grains and legumes, adding high amounts of all the essential vitamins and minerals. Subscribing to vegetarian magazines, scouring newspaper food sections, and visiting veggie websites will bring you a respectable number of recipes, but it’s more convenient to have hundreds and hundreds in one place. ”

    Most up to date write-up coming from our blog site

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This entry was posted on January 22, 2012 by in Legumes, Main Dish, Soup, Vegetarian and tagged .

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