a photo of creamy lentils with spinach and cheesy polenta
Creamy Lentils with Spinach and Cheesy Polenta

In my meat eating days, lentils were reserved for side dishes and soups. Here, they are the star of the show in a recipe that requires few skills to execute.

Inspired by a Creamy Tahini Lentils post by Nisha @cookingforpeanuts, I was immediately excited to see tahini (it’s my new best friend), and immediately less excited to see dijon mustard and red wine vinegar. Still, the picture was alluring and motivating, so I figured I’d loosely aim in that direction and see what I get.

It’s Saturday, and the routine local farmers market run this morning included a nice haul of fresh tomatoes and spinach from the Long Island Growers Market. The plan was to get those into the pot with the lentils, and figure out the rest from there.

Here’s what I had to pair with the lentils:

  • 1 cup dry brown lentils
  • 1 1/2 cups plant milk*
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 large fresh tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • fresh spinach (how do you even measure this? “large handful”?)

Here’s how it went down:

Before we start, I’ll address the asterisk above next to the plant milk. I used an unsweetened vanilla almond milk, because it’s what I had on hand, but next time will use oat milk. I have better results using oat milk in recipes because it comes through neutral, and the vanilla was okay here, but not what I really wanted. Do your thing though, and use whatever plant milk you like best. I do recommend keeping a 3:1 ratio of liquid to lentils for the best results.

  • In a large pot, saute the onion and garlic in olive oil for two to three minutes.
  • Add the tomato and stir for another minute or so.
  • Add the plant milk, vegetable broth, smoked paprika and lentils, stirring to make sure that the lentils are completely covered.
  • Bring to a boil, add the spinach, and reduce heat to low.
  • Add the tahini and stir again.
  • Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until lentils are done and most of the liquid is absorbed.

I served this with a cheesy polenta, leveraging a favorite recipe by Lauren Hartmann @rabbitandwolves. The recipe is simple – four cups of water, salt, 1 cup of cornmeal. Bring to a boil, then simmer 15 minutes and finish with 3 tbsp of vegan butter. Go and visit the recipe link above, but it really is that simple. I like to sub half the water with vegetable broth (2 cups) and leave out the salt (if your broth of choice is salty, that is). I also add 2 tbsp of nutritional yeast for the “cheesy” factor when I make this polenta.

I really enjoyed this, and plan to enjoy the leftovers. You’ll see in the photo that I sprinkled some black falksalt on everything – it feels fancier that way. Aside from the out-of-place vanilla mentioned earlier, I think this hit the mark and was exactly what I was looking for.

What do you think? Lentils for the win?

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