Beluga (black) Lentils - Poor man's caviar
Just look at that pile of little black pearls under that barramundi. Are they not gorgeous?
I had picked up a bag of these black beluga lentils at Trader Joe's a few weeks ago and they have been hanging around in my pantry waiting to make their debut. I put them right on the front of the shelf at eye level so that I wouldn't forget that I had them, incidentally they taunted me each time I walked past the glass doors. I thought these might make a great introduction to lentils around here as they were quick to use because they are already cooked. I am never sure about getting lentils to the exact consistency so they maintain their shape and pop in the mouth without getting all mushy in the pan. I'm far better wih pea soup where you cook the crap out of the split peas just so they make a lovely mush.
These lovely, little pearls however are a whole different story. They literally pop in your mouth almost exactly like little pearls of caviar. They taste earthy, without being overwhelming, and they are a great vehicle for other flavours. These lentils are from Syria and like all lentils, they only lack one of the essential amino acids methionine which can be provided by adding a grain or a nut in order to make it a complete source of amino acids.
There was the big question of what I would do with them until Saturday night. I needed a side for my Barramundi filet and I started tearing through the fridge for ideas.
I had a bit of guanciale left over so I chopped that fine and sauteed it until the pieces were crispy. Pull them from the pan with a slotted spoon and let them hang out on a paper towel.
Then I tossed in a few slices of red onion diced small and sauteed them gently until they were translucent. I minced a garlic clove fine and tossed that in as well. There were a few crimini left over from a stir fry so they were sliced up and tossed in. Now the package of lentils tells you to boil water and drop in the whole package to warm the lentils. I couldn't be bothered. I tipped them in with the onions and mushrooms, seasoned everything with salt an pepper and when they were heated through I turned off the heat an drizzled on some good extra virgin olive oil and tossed on the reserved guanciale.
These gems are really worth seeking out and trying. Please, report back on any other ways you might have used these. I would love to work them into my regular dish rotation.