The mascot for tonight’s blog posting is this “red lentil-Japanese yam- tomato-carrot-cabbage- pinto bean-yellow bell pepper-onion-garlic-chard-fava leaves-parsley curry/burrito filling/stew” I made last year, which, amazingly, despite its growing and growing until it was really sticking out of the pot, I was still able to cook and stir like this without it ever overflowing onto the stove.
Anyway, lentils were very big in 1970’s vegetarian cooking for being a tasty, widely-available, cheap, easy-to-cook (only a half hour, with no overnight soaking required!), and filling source of protein, but were also widely-mocked for making your food (and much vegetarian potluck food) a muddy brown, brown, brown.
Enter red lentils, which are actually orange, and turn yellow when you cook them! :-) Being smaller and thinner than plain greenish-brown lentils, they can even bring cooking time down to more like 15 minutes (though like all legumes and grains, it depends on how you cook them — if you’ve got them mixed in with soup/stew ingredients then they’re slower at absorbing liquid from the thicker mixture than they would be if you just boiled them in water by themselves).
I don’t think red lentils’ popularity has quite reached the point yet where you can just buy packages of them off the shelves at Safeway, but they are very widely available in the bulk bins of natural-foods grocery stores. Personally it’s been many many years since I’ve bought any of the plain greenish-brown lentils, but I always have a bag of red lentils in the cupboard, because they make for beautiful food and cook very quickly.
Here are the recipes I’ve posted so far that use red lentils (more later, I’m sure!):
Oh, and my “My digital still camera” posting in my Digital Filmmaking blog has a funny story at the end involving lentils and rice, but no recipe.
updated October 31, 2013