I am a huge advocate for a more sustainable food system and an improved diet for my community. One of the platforms I promote most fervently is the need for more legumes in our diets. I've been trying to nickname myself the Bean Queen--I haven't quite got it to catch on yet.
Beans, peas and lentils are the most sustainable and affordable protein on our planet but in North America, compared to most other places in the world, these superfoods are almost completely absent from the average diet. They come in so many colours and shapes and absorb flavour so well. 2016 was named the Year of the Pulse by the United Nations http://www.fao.org/pulses-2016/en/ in an effort to give more recognition to this food group and to encourage their consumption over red meat--one of the largest contributors to the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing global warming. You may have a hard time driving or flying less, taking shorter showers and hanging your clothes rather than using the dryer, but everyone can eat at least one meatless meal each week.
You may have heard of Meatless Monday--well every week you can tune in for inspiration on cooking an amazing meatless meal for any day of the week (and learn the embarrassing bean-related nicknames I have for my husband!).
Not only are legumes incredibly affordable, but they are packed with protein, fibre, B vitamins and key minerals like iron, magnesium and potassium, which are deficient in many people's diets. In fact one serving of this recipes has 15 grams of fibre--about half of your daily need--and 20% of the iron you need each day.
Eating legumes should be joyful, instead of feeling like you're missing out. Like this recipe, adapted from How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman (this book is the best all-purpose recipe reference book around!) http://www.howtocookeverything.com/. His Braised Lentils are so simple to prepare and taste absolutely delicious. They are a weekly staple in my house and the kids just gobble them up for dinner and take leftovers in a thermos for lunch the next day. I often double the recipe because they freeze nicely too.
I love using a French lentil because they retain their shape and don't turn to mush (which you would want for a dish like Dal but not in this meal). Lentils also don't have to be soaked like a larger bean so you can make them when you're a little more crunched for time. Serve this comforting dish over quinoa or brown rice with a side of sauteed greens.
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 4 celery stalks, chopped
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 1 cup French lentils
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Chopped parsley for garnish
- Put the oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. A minute later, add the onion, celery and carrot then cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
- Add the bay leaf, wine, stock, lentils and salt and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat so the mixture bubbles gently, cover partially, and cook, stirring occasionally and adding water if necessary, until the lentils are tender, 25 to 30 minutes.
- Add pepper and keep cooking to the desired tenderness. The lentils should be saucy but not soupy. Taste, adjust the seasoning and remove the bay leaf.
- Sprinkle with parsley before serving.
--by Nicole Fetterly, RD and Bean Queen