My friend Neil told me about them years ago. I’m a huge fan of all lentils, but these sounded exceptional, and I became determined to find them. To no avail. Neil lives in Germany, and it turns out that the Germans are several years ahead of us in lentil availability. I bought some urad dal, I thought it might be similar. Not so. Jump ahead a couple of years, and I found myself in Whole Foods. For me, Whole Foods is a forbidden land. Everything is too tempting and too beautiful and too expensive. I rarely go, and then only on precise pinpointed missions. I went this week to find golden beets (my new questing food!). Straight into produce, secure the beets, get out. But no – you have to walk all over the crazy store to get to the checkout. Of course I passed the castelvetrano olives. So pretty, so delicious. And then my greatest challenge. The bulk food aisle. Black rice! I haven’t had that since the Tibetan store closed down. The one with the nice man who used to give Malcolm little bags of black rice. Sigh. And then, a few bins down…BLACK BELUGA LENTILS!
As I walked to the checkout, grappling with all of my little bags of food and tubs of olives (I hadn’t gotten a basket. I wouldn’t need a basket, I was only buying one thing…) This recipe formed in my head. The colors! The flavors! The textures! We would have a sort of pilaf or warm salad, of black rice, black lentils, roasted golden beets, sauteed beet greens, castelvetrano olives and capers. (Malcolm’s first time knowingly eating a caper – he called them “flavor dynamite.”) All layered on a big plate of fresh baby spinach and topped with toasted hazelnuts. Part warm, part cool, a little smoky with Spanish paprika, a little sweet with oregano and basil, a little earthy with beets and sage. Finished with a tangy sweet balsamic and lots of black pepper. And rosemary roasted red bliss potatoes on the side. Delicious!
In the interest of keeping it ordinary, I should tell you that this would be very nice made with basmati rice and not-so-ugly-themselves french lentils and red beets.
I asked Neil to play guest DJ for this post. Here’s what he said…
“Recipe sounds big and brassy…so how about Bold and Black, an Eddie Harris composition played by Ramsey Lewis…from the album Another Voyage. Some smoky rhythm guitar, that sweet melody on Rhodes, and the wonderfully earthy drum riff which kicks off the groove section.” Perfect!!