Cooking challenge: getting my bean-hating husband to eat more legumes (beans + lentils). I decided to start with lentils because they are packed with so much nutrition and I knew I could make them lovable to someone who “thinks” he hates all legume-type foods.
These spicy, peppery, skillet-popped lentils are pretty darn fantastic. You can serve then sizzling warm, straight from the pan or cool them in the fridge to quickly add them to salads, soups or entree grain bowls. Gobble them up by the handful as a fast, power-fuel snack. Served cooled or warm, these lentils are packed with flavor and nutrition. Sprinkle them over everything!
I have three recipes to share with you, all using my one easy cooking method. The recipes: spicy pepper-popped, pepper-balsamic and harvest skillet. If you want to crave more lentils, and learn how to make them shine, try this method..
Skillet-Popped Lentils – sizzle them in a pan and you will watch how they “pop” up into nutty, crispy bits! These lentils are for all your picky eaters who hate anything close to “mushy” – these lively little gems are easy to make and fun to eat. All you need: a few minutes, some lentils, spices and a skillet:
Lentil Power! One half cup serving of lentils contains 8g protein, 9g fiber, 0g fat, 15% RDA iron – and is a good source of folate, manganese, potassium, copper, zinc, magnesium and B vitamins. Go go lentils!
Last post I said I need more turmeric in my life, now for this post “I need more lentils in my life.”
Close-up of the seasoned, peppery-popped bits:
One serving suggestion – in a bell pepper half + Vegenaise-slathered sourdough toast.
My Beloved Bean-Hater. He says they are mushy. Too big. He doesn’t like the texture. Frightening childhood bean-eating memories. For a very long time he wouldn’t even touch rice. Yes. RICE. Seriously, I would giggle and hold a spoonful of peas, corn, chili, lentil soups or brown rice up to his face and he would quiver in fear.
You laugh, I laugh, but then I started to worry. Here is a guy who I basically hold much responsibility for turning vegan (mostly vegan, he eats fish on occasion when we dine out). But being a vegan and not including legumes, peas and many whole grains in your diet is NOT nutritionally smart.
These foods provide vital iron, fiber, vitamins, protein and more. Plus they help add some oomph to a veggie-heavy meal.
The good news is that slowly – VERY slowly – he has added in grains and legumes. Once he realized how delicious they can be when prepared in appealing ways. Aka, mush-free.
1 – He now eats rice. But only fluffy, nutty rice. Mushy rice gets the boot.
2 – He has found he LOVES nutty grains like barley and farro, since they have a nutty rather than mushy texture. He recently gobbled down a bowl of pesto-tossed farro. I was in shock. That same weekend he devoured a side of barley. Again, shocked, who is this man and what have you done with my husband?
3 – He adores beans in the form of hummus. hooray hummus!
4 – He still will not touch (or look at) green beans, corn, peas, large whole beans.
..so what about lentils?
In the past, I had tried lentil soup, but that was a no-go. And any stewed or mushy lentils are also off limits. So how do I make lentils, nutty, crispy and texture-approved for my very picky eater?
My answer: skillet-popped lentils. He LOVES these babies. I pile them on some toast with a generous drizzle of basil-infused EVOO and he devours the plate. Success.
Skillet-Popped Lentils, Three ways:
1 – Pepper-Popped
2 – Balsamic-Pepper
3 – Harvest Skillet
Recipe 1: Basic Prep, Pepper-Popped
vegan, serves 2-3
1 15oz can lentils, rinsed well in cool water and drained
fine black pepper – add to taste
salt to taste (if lentils are unsalted in can)
¼ cup finely chopped parsley (a few generous pinches per cup of lentils)
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil (or to taste – this helps with the crispy edges while cooking)
cayenne (optional, add a pinch for extra spicy lentils)
1. Open your can of lentils and drain liquid. Rinse the lentils in cool water very well. Then drain all the excess water by tossing the lentils in a large bowl strainer. I use a fine mesh strainer. Fluff the lentils a bit so they are as dry as possible. Pat them dry with a paper towel if needed.
2. Warm a large skillet over high heat. Add ½ – 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil. Spread around pan.
3. When oil is hot, add about ¾ cup of lentils. Move them through the oil a bit and let them sit there sizzling in the pan. They will start to plump up and almost look like they are about to pop. Shake the pan a bit to toss the lentils for even cooking.
4. After about a minute, shake about ⅛ teaspoon (or to taste) of fine black pepper over the lentils. You can also add some salt if your canned lentils were not salted (check the can). Toss the lentils with the pepper and continue cooking. You can also add in the optional cayenne if you want extra spicy lentils. (You can even add other varieties of spices! Chipotle powder, garlic powder, turmeric, nutritional yeast, curry powder, onion powder .. anything really.)
5. You will know the lentils are ready when they look nutty, toasty and the edges are browned and dried. For the last minute of cooking, add in a few pinches of the chopped parsley and toss in pan to wilt with the lentils. Add more spices if desired too.
6. Remove these lentils and repeat the process with the remaining uncooked lentils.
Serve warm or cool in fridge for serving cool and adding to salads, lentil toast and more.
Recipe 2 – Balsamic Lentils: The preparation for balsamic lentils is the exact same as the pepper-popped lentils, the only difference is that half-way through the cooking process you add in a small splash (1 teaspoon to start, add more if desired) of balsamic vinegar. Continue cooking as above until all liquid has been absorbed. This adds an earthy, sweet flavor the the lentils. The balsamic lentils are slightly softer since they have some added liquid. (Tip: You could substitute balsamic vinegar with red wine for a rich amazing flavor too!)
Recipe 3 – Harvest Skillet
½ of one small red or orange bell pepper, diced
*You can use the other half to serve the lentils in!
½ green apple, diced
¼ cup diced butternut squash or sweet potato (optional)
pinch of grated orange peel
⅛ teaspoon cinnamon
splash of apple cider vinegar
½ teaspoon EVOO
optional: other veggies/herbs like diced sweet onion, chopped green onion, chopped mushrooms, chopped greens like kale, chopped sage and more..
1. Cook your lentils according to the pepper-popped recipe above. Set warm cooked lentils aside.
2. Add a small drizzle of oil to skillet and add in the harvest veggies and apple. Toss around in pan, adding in the spices and orange peel as well. Cook over medium-high heat until the apples and veggies begin to brown.
3. Keep the veggies in the pan and add in the cooked lentils. Toss together over medium heat. Add the splash of vinegar and continue to cook allowing the flavors of the lentils and the veggies to mingle. This should take just a few minutes. The longer you cook, the drier your ingredients will get.
Magical skillet. Turns lentils into must-have little bits of yum!