Featured Ingredient: Lentils
Lentils are the world’s oldest cultivated legume, a name given to them because the shape of a lentil looks a lot like the lens of an eye. Unfortunately, most North Americans are lucky to eat these earthy wonders once a month. That’s a massive shame when you consider how cheap (about a buck fifty a pound) and how incredibly nutritious they are.
Among the nutritional highlights of lentils is an abundance of protein, blood pressure lowering potassium, heart-protective folate, and dietary fiber – roughly 18 grams per cooked cup. There are very few foods that are well-rounded nutritionally. Plus, they don’t require a pre-soak like beans and cook up in half the time.
Lentils come in many fetching hues. For the recipe below, avoid red or yellow lentils which break down when cooked and are better suited for soups and purees. Insteed of ricotta cheese, you could try soft goat cheese. These are equally good cold or warm.
Lentil Spinach Cups
1/2 cup dry black, brown or green lentils
8 cups spinach, stems removed
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup good-quality Parmesan cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
Bring lentils and 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan and simmer until lentils are tender, about 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 400°F. In a food processor, pulse spinach in until finely chopped. Add ricotta, Parmesan, eggs, nutmeg, salt and pepper to the processor bowl and process until well combined. Stir in drained, cooked lentils. Divide evenly among 10 to 12 medium-sized greased muffin cups. Bake until set, about 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool and loosen with a butter knife. Garnish with grated Parmesan.