Smoky Beluga Black Lentils

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Beluga lentils are black lentils that have a delicate flavor and a slightly firmer texture than small, green French lentils. Also called caviar lentils because of their resemblance to beluga caviar, they pair perfectly with other proteins or vegetables.

I recently had beluga lentils at an upscale restaurant. A perfect piece of Smoked Chilean Sea Bass was served on top of these addicting little lentils. I was hooked and determined to recreate the lentil dish at home.

I’ve tried several recipes and this is the result. This is my version of a James Beard recipe. It is exquisite, delicate, smoky and satisfying.

In addition, the black lentils provide lots of nutrition. One half cup of uncooked black lentils provides 26g protein, 18g fiber, 100mg calcium, 8mg iron, and 960mg potassium. Plus, black lentils are full of anthocyanin, an antioxidant found in purple and blue foods. Anthocyanins are anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and a have anti-cancer benefits. And, like all legumes, lentils may help lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.

The recipe does use bacon to give it a rich smoky taste, but as I recommend to my clients, use bacon as an ingredient instead of a side dish. If you want to omit the bacon, a smoked seitan like Upton’s Bacon Seitan or MorningStar Farms Veggie Bacon Strips could be experimented with.

Black lentils can be hard to find so I prefer to buy mine on Amazon.

3 ounces smoked bacon, diced

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1/2 cup finely diced carrots

1/2 cup finely diced shallots

1/2 cup finely diced celery

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves or 1 1/2 tsp dried thyme

1 cup beluga lentils

2 2/3 cups chicken stock

Coarse salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Makes 4 servings as a side dish

In a saucepan, cook the bacon until all of the fat has rendered. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the pan. Add the garlic, carrots, shallots, celery and thyme. Cook for about 2 minutes, until the vegetables are slightly softened. Add the lentils and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute, or until heated through. Add the chicken stock and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.

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