Recipe: Tasty Lentils

Enough for four to five people as a main course when served with rice and vegetables; enough for eight to 12 as one of several appetizers. Easily made vegan by leaving off the yogurt and feta cheese.

    • ¼ large white sweet onion (yellow or red onions also acceptable)
    • Olive oil (fruity and peppery are good)
    • Dash each mint, cumin, cilantro, cayenne, fennel seed, mustard seed, dill, and cinnamon
    • 1 cup brown lentils (pebbles removed, rinsed thoroughly, but unsoaked)
    • 2 medium or large carrots
    • 3 cloves garlic (or more, if the mood strikes you)
    • Pomegranate molasses
    • Salt and pepper
    • Yogurt, preferably full-fat Greek yogurt, and crumbled feta cheese (omit if the dish is to be vegan)

Reduce the onion to ½-inch dice. In a heavy casserole (at least 2.5-quart capacity) on high heat, warm about one tablespoon of olive oil. Add the spices when the oil begins to shimmer, then reduce the heat to low and stir, then cover the pot leaving a little gap (this prevents whole spices from spreading themselves across your stovetop as they pop). When the fennel and mustard seeds begin to pop, add the chopped onion and stir to coat the onions in oil and spices. A powerful and promising aroma will permeate your kitchen. Let the onions do their thing on low heat.

Bring the heat back up to high and add the drained lentils. Stir again to coat the uncooked lentils in oil and spices. The aroma will now be reminiscent of wet earth and significantly less promising—in time, this will change. Add enough water to cover the lentils by about a half inch. When the contents of the pot come to a boil, reduce the heat to medium again and cover, leaving a slight gap for steam to escape. Do not add salt or pepper yet.

Peel and cut carrots into ½-inch half-rounds or whatever medium-sized shape strikes your fancy. Peel and finely mince the garlic. When you have completed these onerous tasks, inspect the casserole again and top up with water to just cover the lentils if necessary. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add all the garlic, then re-cover, again leaving the merest gap. When the lentils are softened but not yet tender, add the carrots. Continue to cook until carrots are soft but still firm to the bite and lentils are soft but not mushy. Add about a teaspoon's worth of pomegranate molasses, then stir to mix. Season with salt and fresh pepper, remembering that feta is a salty cheese.

Over the lentils, spoon some thick yogurt (full-fat Greek yogurt is good) mixed with liberal lashings of cayenne and finely-chopped garlic, fresh mint, parsley, and then sprinkle on a bit of crumbled feta (these last two make the lentils vegetarian but not vegan). Jasmine white rice is a good accompaniment, as are chopped kale sauteed on high heat until crisp and charred in places and genmaicha tea.

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Vaughn Tan is a student at Harvard's Business School and Sociology Department. More

Vaughn Tan lives in Cambridge, Mass., where he is a student at Harvard's Business School and Sociology Department. His interests are assorted and apparently unconnected; he writes about them sporadically at www.vaughntan.com.

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