Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Lentils for Lunch

Like many people, I overindulged over the holidays (I overindulge all the time, though, so it would be more accurate to say that I overoverindulged) and especially on my vacation. I normally don't allow (over)overindulgences to trouble me, but I have been feeling somewhat leaden of late, and it is difficult not to attribute my lethargy at least in part to too much good food. (Getting up at 5:45 and going to work in thirty-five degree weather after nearly two weeks of sleeping in including five days of loafing in eighty-five degree weather may also have something to do with it, but one ought to address the causes one has control over and not whinge about the ones one can do nothing about, oughtn't one?) I'm coming up on the time of year where I'll be expected to work seventy to eighty hours a week, and wakefulness and energy are especially helpful in keeping that number closer to seventy than to eighty.

(This whole feeling of blah was brought to a head for me the other morning when I was forced to acknowledge the ridiculousness of sitting in my car and eating a Sausage Egg McMuffin while reading The Taste of America. I will write more about that valuable volume of viciousness at a later date, assuming that I can avoid sinking into the slough of despond that is the Hesses' idea of prose and actually finish it. No, really, I understand that you don't like using flour to thicken sauces; in fact, I understood it the eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth times you said it, too.)

I generally find that the quickest dietary route to increased energy is to increase my dietary fiber while limiting my intake of fat. As dinner for me often includes significant quantities of baguette with butter, it is not especially difficult for me to find ways to accomplish these goals, but I also rather stubbornly insist that the food I eat has to taste good.

So hooray for lentils. They are loaded with fiber, they're delicious, and they're very easy to prepare. I love legumes of most sorts, but making beans for dinner (or lunch) requires either a good deal of planning ahead or resorting to canned beans. You can have a nice pot of lentils ready in about an hour (which includes only about five minutes of actual work), start to finish.

There is nothing special or fancy about this recipe, but I do find it especially tasty, and I'll be eating it for lunch the rest of this week.


2 ounces bulk sausage
1/2 large onion chopped (about 1.25 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. ground cumin
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
1/2 t. celery seed
2 cups brown lentils
1 cup brown rice
2 bouillon cubes
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
6 cups water, at or near the boil

In a heavy four-quart saucepan, brown the sausage. Stir in the onions, cover, and cook over low heat for five minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, red pepper flakes, and celery seed. Stir well and cook for another minute. Add the remaining ingredients, stir, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a low simmer, cover, and cook for forty minutes. The lentils should be nearly tender. Turn off the heat and let sit, covered, for another ten or fifteen minutes. Correct seasoning.

You don't have to use either the sausage or the bouillon cubes, of course, but I find that they give a good flavor to the lentils and rice. You could use a tablespoon or two of olive oil and some additional seasonings (and/or vegetable matter) instead. You do have to have some source of fat in the recipe. Health types will tell you that some fat is necessary to metabolize yada yada yada blah blah blah, but the important point is that some flavors are fat soluble, and even a very small amount of fat (the sausage rendered a good deal less fat than I'd expected, even though I was careful to eschew the low-fat variety) will release those flavors. If you avoid bouillon cubes on principle, then you are a better person than I, and I am in no position to argue with you; my lentils may taste better than yours, but surely there is no sauce as fine as moral superiority.

I am especially fond of the humble brown lentil, but you may substitute a lentil of a different color if you prefer. You may also substitute white rice (but add it later in the cooking) for brown rice or substitute barley for rice or leave the second grain out altogether and either use an additional cup of lentils or two cups less of water. You can substitute bacon or salt pork for the sausage. The variations are nearly endless.


Blogger meretrice i. d'oscena said...

Good luck and God bless you during tax season. I used to be in that game, and I know what you will be going through.
The kind of stress and exhaustion that makes one lose/gain 25 pounds and try to stab unruly employees with a pencil yelling, "Questo e il baccio di Meretrice!"
I did that for 8 years, though it was obviously not the career for me.

This one time I was with customers, doing their return, and fell asleep right in front of them. My head did not actually hit the desk, and I don't know how long I was out (probably just a few seconds) but the first thought that came to me was, "If they ask about it, tell them you're narcoleptic."

Seriously, may the Schwartz be with you.

9:41 AM  
Blogger Sangroncito said...

mouth watering, as always.

6:04 AM  

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