Sometimes I think this blog should be called “A Cheater’s Guide to Paleo” because there are a few items that I can’t seem to remove from my diet. Lentils are one of those foods.
It’s not like I’m eating lentils all the time, but there are a few dishes that just sing when I use those tiny legumes. I think the key is to use them sparingly to highlight the real main course.
This crispy lamb and lentils recipe provides a nice example of my “a little goes a long way” theory. The entire recipe only uses 1-1/2 cups of cooked lentils, which means each serving is only 1/4 to 1/3 cup, depending on how many you’re feeding. Lentils are packed with fiber, iron and protein (13 grams per serving) so I’m okay with including them in my diet once and a while.
I found this basic recipe in a Bon Appétit magazine but in my typical fashion, I couldn’t follow the instructions exactly. So this version has my own personal spin on it, and it’s pretty delicious. Make the lentils ahead of time if you need to, but they really only take 5-10 minutes because it’s a small batch.
When you take a bite of this you’ll immediately feel like you’re eating Mediterranean cuisine. The lamb and lentils mixed with fresh cucumber and parsley is an amazing combination. If you’re feeding people not adhering to Paleo, then include some fresh pita and the Greek yogurt sauce (recipe is also below) to expand your meal. This recipe feeds four adults. I added a few Kalamata olives because they pair so well, and I love them.
1-1/2 cups lentils, red, brown or green
1 pound ground lamb
1/2 cup onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, pressed or chopped
1 cup cucumber, chopped
1/2 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Lettuce cups or pita bread
Bring two cups of water or chicken broth to a boil in a small sauce pan. Add lentils, cook on medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat and set aside.
In a large sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic. Once it’s hot (about 2 minutes) carefully add the ground lamb and press it down to cover the entire pan. After 4 minutes, break up the lamb and continue to brown it, like you might do with hamburger meat for tacos. The goal is to get the meat very brown and crisp. Season the meat with paprika, salt, pepper and cumin.
Then add the onion to the pan, and continue to cook for another 3-5 minutes. Meanwhile, drain the lentils.
Push the meat to one side and add last tablespoon of oil to the empty side of the pan. Add the lentils and press down to cover the empty space. Let cook for 3 minutes, and then stir into the lamb mixture. Continue to cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.
Turn off the heat. Incorporate the fresh mint, parsley and cucumber. Fill lettuce cups or serve with warmed pita and yogurt sauce.
Greek Yogurt Sauce
3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon chopped onion
1 tablespoon chopped cucumber
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
2 tablespoon reduced fat feta cheese
Mix everything together and let sit for 30 minutes before serving.