I had one of those nights when the fridge looked scarce and scattered. The few yummy ingredients on the second shelf just didn’t seem to go together, and I was getting frustratingly hungry. I searched my windowsill of jars and even they looked a bit empty. In the back row, however, I found a full jar of red lentils. Remembering that I had found a lentil sauce recipe a few months ago, I decided I had enough ingredients to make my own lentil tomato sauce. And I have to say, my favorite nights of cooking are ones like tonight when you think you have nothing to eat and you make a delicious, healthy, hearty meal!
(And if you’ve read my past recipe post on lentil burgers, you know I have a thing for lentils. They are a healthy substitute for meats, and their texture works so well with a variety of foods, like burgers, sauces, burritos, and salads. I am a lentil cheerleader).
Boil a few cups of water with one cup of red lentils. Once boiling, lower heat to a simmer and cover. It takes about 20 minutes for lentils to soften, and you see them getting less chunky and more mushy (mushy in a good way!).
While the lentils cook, cut up any veggies you have. I had some carrots from my garden, a zucchini, asparagus, and onion. I minced a clove of garlic and sautéed the onion and garlic until the onions looked clear. Because vegetables hold their nutrition more if they are steamed than sautéed, I put the carrots, zucchini, and asparagus in the steamer for about 10 minutes.
Once the lentils are soft and drained, add a can of diced tomatoes and a can of tomato sauce. I poured in a few tablespoons of soy sauce and seasoned with basil, oregano, and pepper. Throw in all veggies, cover, and let simmer while you cook your whole-wheat spaghetti.
Some notes on lentils:
Many vegetarian books agree that lentils are a top-five healthiest food. They carry a large amount of plant-based protein, and they are one of the best vegetable sources for iron. Types of lentils include red, green, yellow, and black. Some lentils carry more fiber than others, but all lentils have jam-packed nutrients and minerals. Be sure to rinse your lentils before cooking and do not eat them raw (they carry phytic acid and tannins).
My favorite way to use lentils is in burritos. When spending two weeks camping in the California dessert, 60% of my meals were lentil burritos. And I still eat them!