Out for a Stroll: Lovely Lentils and Their Best Friends


For the moment, consider taking lentils out for a stroll. They love the company, they need but a few nudges, they know the best-dressed and lovely vegetables are but weeks out.

Find some good lentils, ones from last year’s branches, and soak a cup of them in cold water for ten minutes or so. Peel and chop a carrot, a leek, a stem of celery, and a good modest yellow onion. Chop them rather fine, close to the size of the lentils and also chop a garlic clove.

In a small le Creuset pot, heat some olive oil and add your chopped vegetables and garlic. Stir, do not salt, and let them cook until softened 6- 7 minutes. Let the heat be high enough so they do not burn but are not bored.

Drain the lentils and add them wet to the pot — it should sizzle. Stir to mix and let them cook for a minute or so, with some stirring. When the lentils lose the moisture, they will begin to stick and slightly brown.  (They will have a wonderful smell). When they stick, stir and add two cups of water (you could use broth or stock), add the bay leaf, some rosemary, some sage, and a few peppercorns. (The rosemary and sage are up already in the garden).

When this comes to a boil, turn the heat down, so the mix is rolling along. It will take 15-20 minutes for the lentils to soften. Stir some. If it takes an hour, the lentils are old. The water will cook away and they will thicken — you can add a little more liquid if they are too dry. 

You want the lentils like a good risotto, wavy. Not wet, not dry. Then, add some salt, and some cracked pepper and some cold butter and some chopped parsley and turn the heat off and put a lid on.

Now you can dance with them. Lay them beneath a piece of sautéed fish, or chicken, as a bed. Plate them with a roasted beet, peeled and sliced, some Greek yogurt and some marinated red onions. Or a roasted leek. They love each other’s company.

Mix them with fresh cooked Basmati rice, the two famous grains, and sautéed broccoli, with the garlic and olive oil all over it, and fold pieces of avocado into the mix, some harissa and hummus on the side. Add some lemon, both zest and juice if you wish, and a chopped handful of cilantro to finish. Always add a little more salt to them. 

There are spring sprouts on the market, and lentils love sprouts, the new crazy taste of radishes and such. And chives — they are arriving, new chives. And goat cheese is better, for the goats are now eating outside. Chives and goat cheese and lentils, they are the very best of pals.

Or put the lentils away for evening, they will make their mark the next day. When you first see the lentils the next day, they are hardly a sight. A thing about lentils — they are incomparably better the next day. But, to keep that secret, they certainly do not look better. They take on a dullness in the fridge and they look more a fatality than a promise.

Do not be fooled. Heated, with just a little olive oil and warm water, and they perk to life, with remarkable taste and vitality. They are suddenly ready to go, ready to play and dance and run with any foods.

Keep a small pot of stock or water, slightly bubbling, when you are reheating lentils, it will be the perfect makeup for the lentils they cook. You can throw all of the cooking scraps into the pot. Parsley ends and pea pods and such.

You can refresh them with the slightest of warm broth, add some chopped cilantro and chives and, best of all, some pieces of fresh basil and stir together. Roast a handful of walnuts for seven minutes, let them cool and chop and add them. Add some spring spinach, torn. A little olive oil and lemon juice, a spoonful of yogurt, some salt and pepper and they are ready for lunch, or before dinner.

Or simply add them to a soup, especially a tomato base, or a tomato sauce. They are the vegetarian’s gentlest ground beef. And they love grated parmesan.

Lentils – they are here to help. It is easy enough to cook in June. But, this is not June. Start with that single cup of lentils- and see if they help your meals and your humor.

Peter Miller
Peter Miller
Peter Miller runs the Peter Miller Design Bookshop, in Pioneer Square, in the alley between First Avenue and Alaska Way. He is there, every day. He has written three books, Lunch at the Shop, Five Ways to Cook, and How to Wash the Dishes. A fourth book, Shopkeeping, A Manual, will be published in Spring 2024, by Princeton Architectural Press.


  1. Oh, thank you for renewing my spirits with these ideas for lentils, which grow well in eastern Washington — especially the Palouse!


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