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Lentil chili…sort of.

I said I would make lentil chili today. And I am, but I’m not going to give out the recipe. Wait! What I mean by that is there is no recipe. It’s more of a technique/taste thing. Seriously, who doesn’t have their very favorite chili recipe? It’s just one of those things.

The reason I went with lentil chili today is I want chili. It’s so dang cold right now; my toes are numb. In my apartment. I wanted chili, preferably topped with cheese and onions. And I’ve been fighting a cold the last few days. So, in deciding to make chili (comfort food!) I didn’t want to have to mess with cooking beans. All I have is dried (cheaper). I do have lentils. They are not the fancy green or red lentil all the foodies go for. No, these are good old-fashioned brown lentils (non-GMO, as are most lentil from the Palouse), pride of the Palouse. Seriously. They actually have a festival. Every year, the city of Pullman, Washington celebrates the humble brown lentil.I know all about these lovely legumes because I grew up in the heart of lentil country. Let Iowa have their corn, and Kansas, their wheat. We’ll take those lentils. You know what? It makes a good cooking legume. They cook a lot faster than beans do.  So go ahead, throw ’em in a pot of chili!

Anyway, lentil chili. All I did was brown a pound of hamburger and half an onion, diced. Then I added my spices. In this case, about a tablespoon of mild chili powder and about a teaspoon of cumin. I also add around a tablespoon of dried onion because I like the different onion flavors. Next comes a quart of tomatoes in their juice, crushed. If they’re not juicy enough I will add a small can of sauce. Sometimes I will use a can of Rotel to add heat. Tonight, I just finely diced a few hot peppers (Serrano? Something I had them in the freezer. They were a gift). Finally, I add my secret ingredients: sugar and vinegar. A spoonful of sugar before the chili simmers for about an hour, or until lentils are soft. The vinegar, apple cider, is added about 10 minutes before serving. Not a lot, just enough to give the chili a little tang.

Then I dig in. Sprinkle a few chopped onions and a bit of shredded cheese on top. Perfect meal for a cold, cold night.


Lentil Facts & Lore

  • The National Lentil Festival started in 1989 and grows every year!Lentils are shaped like a contact lens. In fact, lens is the latin word for lentil.
  • Lentils may have been used as an aphrodisiac in ancient Egypt. They also thought that the lentil enlightened the minds of children, making them more cheerful and studious.
  • The lentil is a cousin of the bean, and both are a part of the legume family. All legumes are seeds that grow within pods.
  • During World War lI, Americans were encouraged to eat lentils to help the wartime economy.
  • Folic Acid is one very important nutrient found in lentils. One cup of cooked lentils provides 90% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA). Lentils provide more folic acid than any other unfortified food.
  • Lentils have been found in the tombs of Egypt dating back to 2400 B.C.
  • The official mascot of the National Lentil Festival is Tase T. Lentil. His close cousin, Dan D. Pea, is the mascot of the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council.
  • Soluble fiber in lentils acts as a scrub brush, cleaning the digestive system. This type of fiber also decreases serum glucose and cholesterol, and decreases insulin requirements for people with diabetes.
  • The chili bowl at the National Lentil Festival holds 650 gallons of lentil chili.
  • In 1990 Whitman County, where Pullman is located, grew 98% of the lentils produced in the entire United States! We now grow about a third of the nation’s lentils, not because we grow less, but because other areas increased their production of this fabulous food!
  • According to the Bible, Esau was tricked into selling his birthright for a pottage of lentils. (Genesis 25:34).
  • In 2010 we brewed 350 gallons of our famous lentil chili. We stir the pot by hand using river paddles! (clean of course!) Every last lentil was gone in under 40 minutes.

Courtesy of The National Lentil Festival

And check out this link for a great write-up by the New York Times. Yes, it was years ago, but it still rings true.


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