When I was in high school my mom would fall back on lentils a lot, and they were something that I really despised. Her go to move in a pinch was to make plain lentils, toss in spinach, season it solely with Braggs liquid aminos (which I thought was gross at the time but can actually appreciate now..) and then serve this brown, lumpy concoction over a baked sweet potato, there was probably some garlic involved at some stage of this too…With that said,, please do not judge my mom, she is a great, inventive, resourceful cook who would occasionally take a well deserved break from spitting out gourmet meal after gourmet meal with something cheap, easy and quick..
Anyway, I would dread this lentil dinner and be disgusted when I’d see her starting to cook it. Fact of the matter was that my mom was on the health bandwagon before it was a cool or trendy bandwagon to be on. In retrospect, she was using a little ingenuity to create a quick, protein packed meal that would fill us up and barely cost anything to make or require any energy. Today, you could probably buy this exact meal at Whole Foods or some health conscious hipster joint and they would probably charge you an arm and a leg.
Moving on….over the weekend I started to read a lot about Dan Buettner and his research on the diets of those living in the Blue Zones- the five regions in Europe, Latin America, Asia and the US that have the highest concentrations of centenarians in the world- you can read more Dan and his research here and here.
From the small bits and pieces of his findings that I skimmed through, it seemed that these communities ate little meat and fish, filling up on mostly grains, legumes, and lots of veggies seasoned with fresh herbs and plenty of garlic and onion. I don’t know why, but my moms plain lentil dish came to mind as a dish that would be easy to improve upon using some of these concepts. Of course, I live with a man who at heart is pure South American, so I had to also balance the lentils with some sort of protein that he would deem acceptable- I decided on spicy Italian chicken sausage.
I made only 1 Cup of Lentils (MORE than enough for two people), cooking them in 2 cups of vegetable stock and 1 cup of water. After the lentils were cooking about 20 minutes I added some chopped veggies: 3 carrots, 2 stalks of celery, half of a white onion and three cloves of garlic and let the entire pot simmer for about 15 minutes more. At this stage I also seasoned the lentils and veggies with himalayan sea salt, black pepper and about two dashes of Worcestershire. I didn’t want to over season, as I knew the sausages would be spicy and salty.
I broiled spicy chicken sausage under the broiler until the sausage casing was bubbling and crisp and then sliced lengthwise.
To soak up some of the juices from the lentils, we served them over a spoonful of brown basmati rice and garnished with fresh flat leaf parsley and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
I was so pleased with this dish- the sausages complimented the lentils perfectly (like a sophisticated rendition of the old hot dogs in lentil soup pairing), and the fact that they were chicken sausages made me feel less guilty. The lentils were cozy but flavorful and light enough for summer and even Javi who proclaimed ‘I hate lentils’ as I was cooking, ate and enjoyed every bite.