Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Sweet and Sour Lentils

I can't believe how much time has passed since my last post.  I wish I could say it's because I've been whipping up a storm in the kitchen, but that is not the case.  I am cooking, just not a whole lot that's new.  For some reason I am not feeling too inspired.

Although part of the reason is that I have become thoroughly and totally obsessed with sourdough.  I hope to start sharing what I have discovered soon, but it has been six months and I feel like I've just barely broken the surface of what is possible, and have barely come up for air to work on other things.

But as always, there have been moments when I have felt the need to try something new.  And that is just what I did a few weeks ago.  I have been fascinated by a recipe for Sweet and Sour Lentils in one of my favorite cookbooks for years now.  I could not imagine a successful integration between the ubiquitous Chinese restaurant entree and the earthly legume.  I would pass over it as I thumbed through the book looking for ideas, but then invariably I would turn the page back, look over the recipe, and wonder how it would taste.

My curiosity finally got the better of me, and pineapples were on sale at the grocery store, so it seemed like a good time to give it a try.  But I also had a glut of apricots from the Green City Market that were in serious danger of going bad before I could use them so I thought why not use apricots instead of pineapple?  Truth be told, I'm not a huge fan of pineapple and I figured apricots have a similar flavor profile of sweet and tart so I might as well go for it.

The result?  A surprisingly delicious blend of flavors that should not necessarily work together but do.  In addition to substituting apricots for the pineapple I did a little tweaking here and there and came up with something truly delicious.

I have always had trouble making lentils look good, so I don't know how appealing this looks but I can tell you, it is quite tasty and I will definitely be making it again.  It is perfect for a workday lunch.

Home Cooking Chapter: My Recipes
6 servings

1 cup brown lentils, rinsed and soaked in water to cover for 1 to 2 hours
2 Tbsp grapeseed oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
4 to 5 fresh apricots, diced
2 Tbsp garlic ginger paste (or 1 Tbsp each minced ginger and minced garlic)
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 Tbsp sherry
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp ketchup
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp warm water
1 tsp toasted sesame oil, or to taste

Drain the soaked lentils, then place them in water to cover and cook until tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute until golden, 7 to 10 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic paste and cook for a few seconds, then add the apricots. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes more, stirring frequently. Add the lentils, vinegar, sherry, soy sauce, sugar, Tabasco sauce and ketchup and bring to a boil, then cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Combine the cornstarch and warm water in a small bowl, then whisk the mixture into the lentils. Lower the heat and cook for 5 to 10 minutes more, until the mixture has thickened.

Remove from the heat and add the sesame oil and give it one last stir. Serve over rice.

adapted from Jessica's Sweet and Sour Lentils recipe in Lean Bean Cuisine: Over 100 Tasty Meatless Recipes from Around the World, by Jay Solomon (Prima, 1994)

Exported from Home Cookin 8.58 (www.mountain-software.com)

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