Smoky Lentils with Cinnamon

butterfly Serves: 6-8

Written By Eydie Desser


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Being from Texas I love all things grilled, with just a hint of smoke.  When it’s raining or very cold, in place of grilling, I use warming, umami flavored spices.  Smoked paprika, cinnamon, and a tiny bit of liquid smoke do the trick and make the lentil dish something special.  I used a spice mixture I learned from Chef Lior’s book, Mastering Spices. Scallions, cilantro and lemon juice are great accents that will brighten all of the flavors of the dish.


For the Spice mixture:

(Blend all the ingredients together in a spice grinder)

  • 4 teaspoons granulated garlic 
  • 2-1/4 teaspoons cumin seeds 
  • 2-¼ teaspoons smoked paprika
  • ¾ teaspoons ground cinnamon (I like Vietnamese)
For the Lentils:
  • 1 (12 ounce)  yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 large carrot (about 4 oz.) peeled and diced into ¼-inch pieces
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and diced into ¼ -inch pieces
  • Spice mixture (divided)
  • 2 tablespoons no salt tomato paste
  • 2 cups organic Black Beluga Lentils, rinsed (see video below)
  • ½ cup finely sliced scallions on the bias, or more to taste
  • ½ cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped, or more to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • fresh lemon juice to taste 


Make the Lentils:
  1. Dry sautè the onion:  Set a large saucepan with 2-3” sides, over medium high heat for 1-½ minutes.  Add diced onion and stir quickly so that the onion doesn’t stick to the pan.  Lower the heat to medium low and place the lid on the pan for 1 minute.  Lift the lid and stir and cover again for another minute or two, or until the onion is translucent.  If the onion starts to stick to the pan, add a couple of tablespoons of water and scrape up browned areas (fond) on the pan with a wooden spoon. The fond adds a lot of flavor.
  2. Add 1-½ tablespoons of the spice mixture.  Stir to combine with the onions, and cook for another minute or until the mixture becomes fragrant.
  3. Add the carrot and bell pepper, stirring occasionally, until barely tender, about 3 minutes.  Add the tomato paste and lentils and stir for another minute. Add 4 cups cold water, raise the heat to high, and stir in the remaining spice mixture.  Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to maintain a low simmer, stirring occasionally until the lentils are just tender, about 30-45 minutes.  (There should be just a tiny bit of liquid left in the pan.) 
  4. Remove mixture to a bowl and stir in the scallions, cilantro and lemon juice to taste.  Give it a stir, taste and adjust seasonings.

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