Have You Checked Your Pulse Lately? 3 Great Recipes for the Lowly Lentil

– by Jakob Anderson, Food Writer –

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No I’m not talking about your ailing heart. I’m talking a high protein, cheap (dirt cheap) and healthy ancient food that is finally taking off in popularity in the western world. A pulse is the dried seed of the legume family. Lentils, chickpeas, dried beans and peas are all examples of pulses. These dried seeds have gained in notoriety lately because more people are looking for cheap alternatives to meat and other protein sources. Also, health conscious individuals are looking to substitute the simple carbs in their diet for more complex ones that are high in fiber. It also just so happens that the UN declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses, so there is not better time to hop on the bandwagon!

I have been working with pulses for years and had always felt like they flew a little under the radar. Glad to see they’re coming into the limelight. Lentils are my personal favorite but you can’t go wrong using any of them. Here are some recipes to show off the range of uses.

1. Farinata with Spiced Squash and Rosemary

Lentil farinata pancake

Lentil farinata pancake

A farinata is a classic Italian pancake made using chickpea flour. You can find chickpea flour in your local supermarket, although it might be labeled as besan, a term used for the product in Indian cooking, or gram flour (not graham!).

1 cup chickpea flour

1 cup warm water (more if needed)

1/2 cup olive oil

1 cup butternut squash, diced small

1/2 onion, diced small

4 cloves chopped garlic

2 sprigs rosemary, finely chopped

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp black pepper

2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 450ºF. In a bowl mix chickpea flour, salt and pepper. Stir water in slowly, if you’re finding it looks too dry add more; it should have the consistency of cream. Stir in 3 Tbsp olive oil. Let this mixture stand as your oven heats. Heat the rest of the oil in a cast-iron pan or other ovenproof pan on stovetop. When pan is hot, add squash, onions, garlic and rosemary. Once the vegetables have browned, add cinnamon. After the oven has heated, pour batter into pan and place in oven. Bake pancake for approximately 12 minutes or until it sets completely. If it looks dry, drizzle oil over the top. Serve with your Momma’s tomato sauce. A flavorful yogurt-based sauce also works.

2. Roasted Root Vegetable and Lentil Salad with Gorgonzola

Lentil salad

Lentil salad

If you would like to know my taste, what really pleases my palate, this recipe is a shining example. This salad is sweet, rich and funky. Perfection.

1/2 cup dry de puy (French, or green) lentils

2 golden beets, quartered

2 parsnips, cut into large rustic chunks the same size as the beets

2 carrots cut into large rustic chunks same size as beets

1 onion, quartered

2 Tbsp raw honey

3/4 cup olive oil

3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup unsweetened golden raisins

1/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped

1/4 cup gorgonzola, crumbled

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Toss vegetables in salt, pepper, 1/4 cup olive oil and 1 Tbsp honey. Roast in oven for approximately 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender. While they are roasting, add lentils to a pot with 2 cups water. Add 2 Tbsp salt to water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook lentils for 20 minutes until soft but not mushy; you want a bit of chew to them. Once they’ve cooked, drain water and set lentils aside. Mix 1/2 cup oil, 1 Tbsp honey and apple cider vinegar until emulsified. Toss the vegetables and lentils in this vinaigrette. Top salad with walnuts, raisins and gorgonzola. This salad is delicious served warm or cool!

3. Braised Lima Beans with Pork Belly

Add lima beans to any meal

Add lima beans to any meal

Oh, you thought this was a vegan post? Pulses are being used as meat alternatives but can be paired with meats quite nicely. This dish is best served on a rainy, cold day. Don’t forget to soak the dry beans!

1 lb pork belly, cut into 4-inch chunks

1/2 cup dry Lima beans, soaked in water, preferably overnight but a minimum 4 hours

1 onion, chopped roughly

6 cloves garlic, whole

1 apple, chopped roughly

1L chicken stock

1 can of wheat beer (you can get creative here, but nothing too fruity)

3 Tbsp cup salt

10 whole black peppercorns

5 sprigs each rosemary and thyme

2 Tbsp vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 250ºF. Season pork belly with salt and pepper. In large ovenproof pot, heat oil on high. Sear pork belly and then remove from pot. Add onions, garlic and apple to pot; brown but do not burn. Add beer to pot and scrape all the sticky pieces stuck to bottom. Simmer to reduce liquid by half. Add pork belly, chicken stock, Lima beans, peppercorns, thyme and rosemary to pot. Bring to boil, then cover with lid and place in oven for four hours. You do not need to keep checking the pot; it’s going to be fine. Enjoy with your craft beer of choice and crusty bread.