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Learning the Lentil
I'm slowly starting to add more vegetarian dishes to my repertoire: while I'm not a principled vegetarian, I'm increasingly conscious of the ecological impact of modern meat processing, not to mention the health side of things. So I'm experimenting.

Today's dish was basically based on what I happened to find in my shoppings, but was an easy win: a powerful Mushroom Lentil Soup.

1/2 cup small lentils
2 cups water
1 package of random gourmet mushrooms from Whole Foods
1 tsp Better Than Boullion Mushroom concentrate

Bring the lentils, water and stock concentrate to a boil, and simmer for 20 minutes. In the meantime, saute the mushrooms in olive oil for 10 minutes or so, until nicely browned. When the lentils are decently softened, toss in the mushrooms and stir thoughly; don't drain or rinse the lentils, because the stock's lovely. Serve with a slice of sourdough as sops.

Good, simple and adequately healthy -- probably a bit high in sodium from the stock, but otherwise relatively good for me. The soup is rich and thick: only for mushroom lovers, but mighty fine for us...

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I've been doing similarly actually. So the notes are appreciated. I'll throw you ny own favorite if you're interested

Suggestions and ideas are certainly welcome, especially for relatively quick dishes like this. My traditional "quick and easy" dinner is throwing a slab of meat of some sort on the grill; now that we're actually up to grilling season, I'm finding myself explicitly pondering alternatives...

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Looks good -- I'll go poke around. Thanks!

What kind of lentils?

So far, I've favored:

1) The quick and tasty - split red lentils, found at most supermarkets

2) Not as quick but better texture - whole red lentils, harder to find, but available at many Indian markets

3) The slow and extremely tasty - black caviar lentils, found only at Christina's.

In this case, it was a mixed bag of tiny multicolored split lentils that I bought at Marty's in Newton. (The afternoon of wandering *started* with me deciding to go to Marty's to replenish my beer supply, but I got there too early. So I went into Harvard Square to kill a few minutes, and wound up staying several hours before going back to Marty's for beer and, as it happened, lentils.)

Anyway, they cooked medium-fast. In practice, I got a good texture for the soup after about 20 minutes...

That sounds really good, I'll have to try it out at some point.

I've got a great, easy recipe for a lentil pottage, if you're interested.

Certainly! More things to try out...

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Heh -- I'll consider myself warned. No problems yesterday, but we'll see if issues develop.

(And Leeks! Hadn't thought about leeks, but that certainly sounds good...)

I may have to make that for chiefoperator some day. I'm still learning to eat mushrooms.

I found Angry Red Lentil Tortilla Soup by accident some years ago, before we went vegetarian. We like it a lot, and I can make it at camp which is always nice.

Oh, that sounds yummy. I might downgrade the habaneros to jalapenos (my fondness for culinary masochism has weakened over the years), but I'll have to try this...

I have to confess I use pickled jalapeno slices from a jar in the fridge. My local market doesn't label peppers well (if at all) and I can't ID them by sight, plus it's just plain easier to keep a jar in the fridge door. I add more or less depending on my mood.

I was going to tell him about this recipe but you beat me to it. :)

Nothing wrong with that -- pickled jalepenos are a favorite ingredient of mine, and I keep a similar jar. I'll go to the work of fresh ones for certain crucial recipes where I expect to work hard anyway, but for everyday dishes, the pickled are often the right answer...

It was mainly the ecological aspects of food production that led me to vegetarianism. I ate strictly (ovo-lacto) vegetarian for a couple years, and cooked only that way for close to two decades. I've probably got more vegetarian cookbooks than non-vegetarian ones, and I still like the food. A few years back, I went on a diet that really didn't work while vegetarian, and even though I'm no longer on that diet, now that bacon is back in my repertoire, it'd be hard to purge it, again, so I do cook with a variety of meats these days. That said, I still cook many vegetarian meals, too, and quite like them.

There are many varieties of lentils, and many other beans that can provided varied texture, flavour, and colour to your dishes, and I wish you many pleasant experiments with them. One thing I will recommend if you start cooking beans often, is a modern pressure cooker, as it makes quick work of what would otherwise be very long cooking times for some beans.

Ah, very good point. I have a pressure cooker somewhere, which I don't know if we've ever opened. (We inherited it from my mother-in-law.) Had never occurred to me to use it on beans, but that makes oodles of sense...

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