Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Balsamic-Garlic Lentils

This is the first post in a series that I will entitle "Laudable Legumes." Here, I'll highlight a different legumes that I think are worthwhile to include in your diet, why you would want to do so, and of course a recipe to get you started. Legumes are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and protein. They are also really inexpensive: it's not hard to find dried beans for $0.99/ lb. I like to buy dried beans and cook them in my crock pot, since the dried version costs about 25% of what the canned ones cost and you can avoid the added salt. 

I thought it would only be appropriate to start off with my favorite legume, lentils. I like the flavor and texture better than most beans (they are firmer) and they are packed nutritionally. In 1/4c (dry) serving of green lentils (which costs less than $0.10), you get 10g protein, 11g fiber, and 20% of your daily value of iron. They also cook much faster than most dried legumes, meaning I have to be less patient waiting for dinner! Lentils are rich in the essential amino acids lysine and isoleucine, although they are low in the sulfur containing amino acids (methionine and cysteine) so a good source such as sesame seeds or egg whites should be consumed with them or later. A good resource on amino acid content of vegetarian foods can be found here. (Sorry I can't find anything more scientific today, guys. I'll keep trying!)

Today's recipe combines lentils with some mouthwatering flavors of fall: sweet potatoes and leeks. The sweet potatoes are cooked up on the stovetop to maximize infusion of the balsamic and garlic flavors. Once the lentils are leeks are added to the pot, they took soak up the flavors for a savory fall dish. This is great as a main course, side dish, or even a hashbrown-like breakfast. This is actually a fairly inexpensive recipe, as sweet potatoes are on sale these days. The most expensive part is the leeks, which can be substituted for onions if you're cooking on a budget.

Balsamic-Garlic Lentils with Sweet Potatoes and Leeks

2 large or 3 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed ($0.60)
1c dried lentils ($0.50)
1 leek ($1.00)
balsamic vinegar
Total cost: $2.10

1. Wash, peel, and cube sweet potatoes. Transfer to a large, deep frying pan or pot with plenty of bottom surface area. Add ~3T water, plenty of balsamic vinegar, and garlic. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally and adding more balsamic/ water as necessary to prevent the pan form drying out. It should take ~30 minutes until the sweet potatoes soften.
2. Once you've started the potatoes, wash lentils thoroughly and then bring to a boil on the stovetop in plenty of water. These should take about 20 minutes to cook.
3. Wash and slice the leek.
4. Once the lentils are soft, drain and wash them again.
5. When the sweet potatoes are soft and almost ready to eat, add the leeks and lentils. Add more balsamic and garlic and keep stirring. After about 5 minutes, everything should be ready to go. Enjoy!

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