Sprouted lentils are fascinating creatures. I came across them originally while in pursuit of the illusive Lentil Beer (soon…..). I’d obviously heard of alfalfa sprouts and the variety of other kinds that one might find in a salad buffet, but I’d never heard of lentil sprouts before. Guess what? They are amazingly easy. A coworker had told me that she makes them by soaking the lentils in water overnight and then just keeps them in a mason jar with a holed-out plastic lid, washing them twice a day. I thought I would give it a try and while I was at the co-op looking for large mason jars, I realized that the co-op actually sells sprouting kits. In addition to mason jars, they have a set of three plastic lids with different size holes (a really small one for rinsing alfalfa seeds, a medium-sized regular one and one with large holes to allow lentil skins to pass through post-sprouting) as well as packages of sprouting lentils, sprouting alfalfa seeds, etc. Well I saw no difference between the packaged ‘sprouting lentils’ and the regular bulk ones, so I just went with the bulk. I did pick up a large, one quart mason jar, though, as well as the pack with the three lids. (While just poking holes in the mason top would seem like an acceptable solution, the exposed metal will rust after washings and give not-so-delicious rust taste to your lentils.)
Back home, I soaked some lentils overnight, wondering how long it would take for them to sprout. To my surprise, within 24 hours they begin to sprout and within 72 they were pushing out of the top of the mason jar! I’ve experimented with decreasing the starting volume of lentils, but even with this batch one cup of dry lentils filled the entire jar in four days!
It took me a while to think of a good recipe for these sprouted lentils because served raw they are fairly bitter. Used in moderation, for example as a salad garnish, they would be nice, but I was looking for something where I could use a sizable portion. Well one tried-and-true method for helping take away the bitterness in greens is heat. This recipe calls for a two-fold approach: a quick blanching to bring out the remaining color in the greens as well as wash them of their soaking water and a stir fry to heat them back up before serving. I was pleasantly surprised with how this recipe turned out. The heat from the peppers combines with the softness of the veggies (you can reduce cook time if you like them a little crisper) to form a sort of spicy ratatouille. Add in the lentil sprouts and the entire texture changes, complete with the light firmness present in the remaining lentil hulls. As winter approaches I will probably resort to the dish several times. It is extremely healthy, (sprouted lentils are actually better nutritionally then normal ones, one reason being that they are a complete protein containing the amino acids that are lacking pre-sprouting) with lots of vitamins and minerals and only a limited number of calories. Plus, a bowl full of cooked veggies is pretty damn comforting after a cold day outside. So enjoy this little creation, I know I did.
Roasted Peppers, Veggies and Sprouted Lentil Stir fry
Serves four people
1 cup lentils, sprouted ~four days
2 cups carrots, sliced (approx. six or seven large)
1 large onion, chopped
6 zucchini squash, sliced
3 red bell peppers
3 red Fresno peppers
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper
Cover a baking pan with aluminum foil and add bell and Fresno peppers. Place under the broiler in the oven, rotating occasionally, until the skin on all sides is charred. (Alternatively, if you have a gas range, you can use tongs and char the skin directly over the burner flame.) Run under cold water to cool, peel off top and skin and clean out seeds. Slice both into thin strips and set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to boil and add sprouted lentils to blanch for sixty seconds, then drain and add to an ice-water bath to cool. When cool, drain, dry with paper towels and set aside.
In a large skillet or wok, add olive oil and heat on medium-high until oil is hot. Add onions and 1 Tsp of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Next, add carrots and zucchini and stir occasionally for 15 minutes. Finally, add the lentil sprouts and roasted peppers and cook for five more minutes. Salt and pepper to taste and serve in bowls with sliced bread and a tasty brew.