Lentils with Salsa Verde by Brittany Nickerson, Master Herbalist
This is one of my favorite healthy winter dishes, not just because of the lentils, but also because of the fresh herbs, spices, and garlic in the salsa verde.
Fresh herbs and spices are such an important part of the diet. They boast complex flavor profiles that stimulate digestion and metabolism and improve absorption of nutrients. In addition, many herbs that we commonly use in cooking have other powerful health benefits. Parsley, for example, contains Vitamins E, A and C, calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron. It is also excellent for the kidneys and prostate and promotes detoxification.
Garlic is another important and often overlooked medicinal food. Garlic contains sulphur compounds that have been studied extensively for their antimicrobial and immune strengthening benefits. These compounds increase the immune response and help the body fight viral, bacterial and fungal pathogens. Eating it raw really provides the best benefit here, so recipes like this salsa verde are the perfect condiment to incorporate into your diet when you feel a cold coming on, or once you have one.
As if all that was not excellent enough, garlic is wonderful for the cardiovascular system. It supports elasticity of the blood vessels, thins the blood and helps the body utilize cholesterol. For this you can eat it both raw and cooked.
I like to add raw garlic to my cooking at the end, just enough so that the flavors can soften and mellow, but that it doesn’t lose so that it doesn’t cook for so long that it loses the benefits of being raw found in raw garlic. I don’t want to discourage you from cooking with it too; I love to roast garlic, stew it and saute it – but I do make sure to get at least some raw garlic into my life, particularly during the winter health season!
2cupsFrench lentils, soaked overnightFor the lentils:
2packed cupsflat leaved Italian parsley (large stems removed), finely choppedFor the salsa verde:
2tbsp.finely chopped fresh oregano (optional)
1/3cupcapers, coarsely chopped
2clovesgarlic, finely minced
fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1/2cupolive oil (approximately)
Soak the lentils overnight in enough water to cover by 6 inches.
In the morning strain the soaking water and cover the lentils with fresh water, by 1 inch. Add bay leaf, cinnamon and cloves. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered, stirring every few minutes, until just soft. Don’t overcook them or they will get mushy.
Set the lentils aside to cool for at least 20 minutes before straining. Straining the lentils while they are hot will make them more likely to separate. If you have the patience you can remove the bay, cinnamon stick and cloves after straining.
While the beans are cooking and or cooling, prepare the ingredients for the salsa verde. Toss together the parsley, capers, garlic, lemon zest and pepper. Then add olive oil, adding more or less to achieve a texture that you like.
Adapt this recipe by adding other finely chopped herbs to the mix, I love to add a few tablespoons of finely chopped thyme or cilantro. Orange zest in addition to or in place of the lemon is also lovely. In traditional Italian salsa verde anchovies are often added. I love this addition, cut back a little on the capers since both are salty.
This recipe serves about 4 as a side dish and is great if you serve the lentils either hot or cold. You can put them over brown rice if you want to beef up the meal a bit or serve it as a side dish. Spoon the sauce over the lentils and enjoy.
Brittany Wood Nickerson is a practicing herbalist, health educator and cook. She combines knowledge of nutrition and a passion for using food as medicine with her training in Western, Ayurvedic and Chinese herbal medicine. Her treatment and teaching approach emphasize personal empowerment, preventative home healthcare and whole body wellness. Brittany is the owner and primary instructor of Thyme Herbal in Western Massachusetts where she teaches a three year Herbal Apprenticeship Program, as well as courses in herbal cooking and homesteading. She teaches women’s health at the University of Massachusetts and is the organizer of the Northampton/Amherst Herbal Meet-up group.