I am loving my lentils lately. (Nice alliteration, huh?)
In the last couple weeks I have been inspired by the Canadian Lentils Recipe Contest to play around in my kitchen to come up with new recipes for the jars of different lentils I’ve got on my basement shelves.
I brought them up into the light.
We’ve been having lentil soup, and lentil frittata and lentil pudding (yes, still working on that one), not to mention lentil crepes and lentil salad.
But I must say, I have a favourite lentil baby – I know, a mother’s not supposed to show favourites, but I can’t help myself. This Lentil Rice Bowl has me so deliciously in love.
Beside all the wonderful health benefits of lentils – you gotta love how rich and earthy they taste. Lentils take me back to the farm and to the fields and to the outdoors. These little nuggets of protein and fiber are natural food in its simplest form.
This lentil and rice bowl is bursting with flavours and colours and natural goodness. Combining lentils and brown rice makes this a powerhouse vegetarian protein dish.
Every little restaurant and bistro worth its salt has a rice bowl of some kind on the menu – usually a fluffy pile of rice topped with veggies, meats or stir fry, or crunchy salady bits. Rice bowls are hearty enough to make a whole meal or a light lunch. They can be hot as a main course, or cold as a salad course. I love it best when the warm lentil-rice mixture mingles with the cold greens, crunchy nuts and chewy cranberries. It’s the ‘whole meal deal’. The beauty of this Lentil Rice Bowl is that you can also pack up all the ingredients separately and take it to work, or even on a picnic, and serve it at room temperature.
And the dressing – drizzle it over the bowl for an explosion of zingy taste that pulls it all into the realm of fantastic!
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Kitchen Frau Notes: I like to make a double batch of the Tahini-Miso dressing and save it for other salads, or to drizzle over warm boiled potatoes The leftover dressing thickens up a bit in the fridge, keeps for a week, and makes a delicious condiment for burgers and other meats.
Brown rice and lentils take about the same length of time to cook, so it works well to cook them in the same pot. If you were to use white rice for this recipe, you’d have to cook the rice and lentils separately, then combine them for the rice bowl. But brown rice is a much healthier and more flavourful option that stands up well to the earthy lentils and the zing of the dressing.
A note on miso paste: Miso is a fermented soy, rice or barley paste, full of beneficial probiotics, vitamins and minerals. It has a salty taste. In this recipe you can use either the dark or the light kind. The lighter one is a little milder in flavour. However, if you are gluten-free, make sure not to use a miso paste that is made from barley. Miso paste can be found in health food stores or Asian grocery stores and lasts (almost) forever in your fridge. If you don’t have miso paste, soy sauce would be a reasonable substitute.
Lentil Rice Bowl with Candied Pecans, Cranberries, and Knock-Your-Socks-Off Tahini-Miso Dressing
- ¾ cup brown rice
- ¾ cup brown or green lentils
- 1 bay leaf
- 3¾ cups water
- 1 cup pecan halves
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon curry powder
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 4 large handfuls washed and dried baby spinach leaves
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- ¼ cup water
- 1 small, or half of a regular-sized clove garlic
- 2 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste)
- 1½ tablespoons miso paste
- ½ teaspoon sriracha sauce (or a pinch cayenne)
Combine the lentils, brown rice, bay leaf and water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, then stir, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes or until tender. The water should all be boiled away and the lentils tender but not mushy, and the rice should be dry and fluffy.
While the lentils and rice are boiling, heat the oven to 350ºF. Put the pecans into a small baking pan. Drizzle with the maple syrup, sprinkle with the curry powder and toss it with a fork until all of the nuts are coated. Spread them out into a single layer. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, until the maple syrup is bubbling and reduced slightly.
Scrape the candied nuts onto a piece of parchment paper on the counter, and spread them apart with a wooden spoon so they are not clumped together. Let them cool.
Meanwhile, prepare the dressing: Whiz all the ingredients together in a blender until smooth. Alternately, you can crush the garlic in a garlic press and combine it with the remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk vigourously until smooth.
Pour into a small spouted cup or pitcher.
When the lentils and rice are cooked, set out 4 large soup bowls (or popcorn bowls or small serving-sized bowls). Divide the warm lentil and brown rice mixture between the bowls (you should have about 1¼ cups in each bowl.
You can arrange the bowls however you like them:
-arrange the lentil mixture on one side of the bowl and place a handful of spinach leaves on the other side, then sprinkle ¼ cup of the candied pecans and ¼ cup of the cranberries over top.
-or place the lentil mixture on the bottom of the bowl, cover with spinach leaves and sprinkle with pecans and cranberries.
-or place the spinach at the bottom of the bowl, lentils on top, then sprinkle with pecans and cranberries.
Whatever tickles your pickle.
Drizzle each serving with a bit of dressing, then pass the dressing at the table so the diners can add more as they like.
My friend Wendy and I shared these for lunch the other day, and we loved them – there were at least a few mmm-mmm-mmm‘s and moans of food-lovin’ ecstasy to be heard as we ate.
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