Coconut lentils and Brazilian rice (4-6 servings)

If I could design my dream job, I would be a Leftover Efficiency Expert/Canine Snuggler. Clients would call me to ask what they could make with, say, half a can of black beans, a stray butternut squash, and a lonely lime, and I would help them put together a killer recipe that showcases the flavors of their leftovers without wasting food. Then said clients would compensate me by allowing me to play and snuggle with their dogs. Of course, this job would exist in a magical realm where money is a useless commodity and dander allergies are nonexistent.

Unfortunately, this cruel world demands we have legitimate jobs to make money so we can buy things and pay our rent. And dogs insist on having fur, and landlords prevent tenants from owning pets. So until those things change, I'll continue making cheap and interesting recipes that distract me from my lack of dog. 

Today's offering was inspired by an unused tomato and a bag of unsweetened coconut flakes. (Doesn't every great tale of adventure begin thusly?) Truth be told, I'd had the recipe for Vegetarian Times' coconut lentils bookmarked for a couple weeks. When I was finally ready to make it, I did some research to find a Brazilian-style side dish, and found Food.com's Brazilian rice recipe, which serendipitously required a tomato!

Lentils are so versatile and satisfying. They're loved all over the place -- India, France, Egypt, Brazil -- and pack a great protein punch. This particular rendition enhances lentils' earthiness with savory spices and subtle, fruity sweetness from raisins. The crunchy, toasty coconut flakes are the crowning feature. The accompanying rice dish is light and simple with its bright tomato and bold garlic. For both the lentils and the rice, I used onion powder instead of chopped onion because of my IBS, but feel free to use fresh onion if you can handle it!

Gluten-free coconut lentils

You will need:

  • 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes, lightly toasted
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil 
  • 1 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry green lentils, picked through and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2 tsp lime juice

Steps:

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan (one with a lid -- you'll need it later) over medium heat. Once oil is warm, sprinkle in the onion powder, ginger, turmeric, and allspice; sauté until the spices are fragrant -- about 30 seconds. Next, add the tomato paste to the pan and sauté another 30 seconds. Add a cup of water to deglaze the pan.
  2. Add the lentils and raisins to the pan, along with 2 more cups of water. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce to medium-low heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Uncover and simmer 10-15 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.
  3. Stir in the lime juice and season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish each portion with a sprinkle of toasted coconut and serve.

Brazilian rice

You will need: 

  • 1 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1 garlic clove, minced 
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 1 cup dry long-grain white rice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth

Steps:

  1. Warm the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add in the onion powder and minced garlic, and sauté until the garlic is fragrant but not browned. 
  2. Add in the chopped tomato, rice, salt and pepper, and broth. Increase heat to bring to a boil; then, lower heat to a simmer, cover, and allow to cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the rice is softened. Serve alongside the lentils.

This is a tasty, simple recipe that's good to bookmark for visiting relatives. It's the type of dish that will impress your mother and make her feel exotic and audacious while you know the ingredients are readily accessible and you didn't go to any trouble. But you can smile at her compliments and say it's a much-loved, traditional Brazilian recipe, and she'll wonder how you grew up so quickly and figured out how to make tropical dishes with such flair. And maybe she'll be so impressed that she'll call your landlord and convince him to reverse his no-pet policy, and then she'll buy you a Havanese puppy.

Hey, a girl can dream.