Last week I wrote about the perfect balanced meal and featured a picture of my dinner the previous night: collard greens, carrots and French green lentils. Since then I have had more than a few requests for the recipe and am happy to provide an encore to the How To Get Started Eating Healthy book.
Lentils are incredibly nutritious and easier to cook than dried beans. They also have the third highest protein content of any plant. A single serving of lentils contains 18 g of protein, 63% of your daily fiber and 37% of your iron in only 230 calories!
Lentils and other legumes are also great for weight loss and are a fabulous alternative to grains for individuals who are insulin resistant or diabetic, since they have minimal impact on blood sugar.
For a pan cooked dish, you want lentils that are fairly robust and maintain their shape after cooking. I prefer French green lentils, but standard brown lentils also hold up pretty well. Simply boil them in excess water with a pinch of salt for 20 minutes or so until tender (do not overcook). Strain, then toss them in with your vegetables at the end of cooking just to coat with flavor and heat through. Lentils freeze well, but can be kept fresh in the refrigerator 3-5 days.
In this recipe, kale or chard can easily substitute for the collards. If you want to use spinach, add it last after the lentils. Fold it in and allow it to wilt into the dish.
Collards, Carrots and French Green Lentils
- 4-5 collard leaves
- 4-5 medium carrots
- 1/2 cup French green lentils, cooked
- 1 small leek
- 1 clove garlic
- olive oil
- sea salt
- lemon juice (optional)
- chopped parsley (optional)
If you are making your lentils from scratch, quickly pick through them for pebbles, give them a rinse then boil them in excess water with a pinch of salt for 20-30 minutes, until tender. Even though I rarely consume more than half cup (cooked) in one sitting, I usually like to cook up at least one cup dry (at least 4 servings) and save the rest for later. Start them boiling as soon as you step into the kitchen and start cooking your vegetables at least 15 minutes after you turn them on.
In the mean time clean and chop your leek and mince your garlic. Peel and slice your carrots at a sharp angle to maximize the surface area for cooking. Clean your collard leafs, chop off the stems then stack them on top of each other in a pile. Cut into one inch squares, removing any sections that have thick pieces of stem.
Heat a pan on medium heat, then add olive oil. When the oil swirls easily in the pan, add the leeks and allow to cook for 1-2 minutes, until the pieces break up and become tender and translucent. Add carrots and stir. Cook 2 minutes, then add collards. Sprinkle with sea salt and continue to cook, stirring occasionally.
Be careful with your heat when pan frying collard greens–don’t let it get too high. The leaves easily trap steam from cooking, and I had a few jump out of my pan onto the floor. They make a loud popping sound too, which is very exciting. If it makes you feel safer, you can cover the greens for the first minute or two while they soften.
Shortly after the collards turn bright green from cooking (4-5 minutes), clear a space in the center of the pan and add your minced garlic in a single layer (you can add a touch more oil if necessary). Let garlic cook 30 seconds or so until fragrant, then add the lentils and mix with the other vegetables. A squeeze of lemon juice, zest or a dash of vinegar is a good addition here, if you like. A sprinkle of your favorite herb, e.g. Italian parsley, basil or thyme, adds depth and complexity if you have them around.
Continue cooking 3-4 more minutes, stirring every 30 seconds. If you are using cold lentils, cook until warm. Adjust salt and serve.
This dish is wonderful as a main course, by itself or with brown rice. It can easily be scaled to accommodate a large crowd if you have a big enough pan.
What flavors do you love to pair with lentils?