Now that I’m getting settled in my new place, it’s time to get back to making something other than salads. First up: lentils.
While they might not be lookers, these belugas are nothing short of delightful. They hold their shape nicely, are the color of dark dark chocolate, and keep you warm with cumin and a pinch of mustard seed. They make the type of homey, comforting dish that you want to eat on a snowy day, and lord knows we’ve had more than enough winter weather opportunities to sup (or breakfast) on these lentils.
Best part? They’re the first thing I cooked on my new stove in my new kitchen in my new apartment. I poured oil in a pot (yeah, I found a pot!) and dropped in spoons of spices (yeah, I found spices!), swirling the mix over the front right burner. With the first few whiffs of cumin, I dragged the edge of my knife across my cutting board (yeah, I found a cutting board!) and scooted onion and garlic into the pot. After a few minutes, I poured in the lentils and broth, brought everything to a boil, lowered the heat, and balanced a lid on the pot at an angle, with just enough room for delicate wisps of steam to escape. Every once in a while, I checked on my lentils, lifting the lid with a yellow striped towel and peeking inside at the gurgling mess, adding a dribble of broth if the pot was looking a little dry.
The afternoon was going so well until the acrid stench of smoke replaced the scent of cumin and I rushed to the kitchen to find that the yellow-striped towel that I had left on the lid had slid down a bit and caught fire. I grabbed another towel – this one with red stripes – and yanked the pot off the burner, tipping the lid and towel into the sink. I checked inside – yup, the lentils were fine, but not quite done. I turned on the faucet and doused the flames, flung open the windows and door to air out the apartment, and returned the lentils, with another splash of broth, to the stove for a few more minutes.
I ate the warm lentils under a dollop of yogurt, with the winter air whistling through every open window and a smoldering towel in the sink.
Now that I’ve mastered, er, broken in, the stove-top, I’ll turn my attention to the oven. Stay tuned…
Cumin-spiced beluga lentils
Adapted ever so slightly from Bon Appetit. If you can’t find beluga or black lentils, substitute French (du Puy) lentils – both hold their shapes and don’t break down or get mushy when cooked. If you want a bit more heat, add 1/2 teaspoon or so cayenne pepper or hot paprika with the other spices. Top with thick Greek yogurt or a fried or poached egg – the extra fat and creaminess complement the texture of the slightly dry lentils.
Makes 4-6 servings
– 1 t cumin seeds, crushed with a mortar and pestle
– ½ t mustard seeds
– 2 – 3 T olive oil
– 1 small onion, finely chopped
– 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
– 1 C black beluga lentils
– 3 – 4 C vegetable or chicken broth
– 1 T sherry vinegar or lemon juice
– kosher salt, freshly ground balck pepper
Saute. Stir crushed cumin, mustard seeds, and 2 tablespoons oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until sizzling, about 1 minute. If the pot looks dry at this point, add an additional tablespoon of oil. Then add onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until just softened, about 5 minutes.
Simmer. Add lentils and 3 cups of broth and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, adding broth as needed to keep lentils covered, until lentils are soft, 30–40 minutes. I found I needed a total of 4 cups of broth. Remove from heat, stir in vinegar or lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper.
Serve. Serve warm under a scoop of Greek yogurt, a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkle of cumin. Or top with an egg. Whatever.
Reheat. Whether you reheat the lentils on the stovetop or in the microwave, make sure to add in a tablespoon or two of broth or water so that the lentils don’t dry out. Once warmed, add a splash of vinegar or lemon juice to add a bright kick.