Salmon with Lentils

I've long been an aficionado of lentils. I enjoy their taste and the varied ways that they can be used. There's good reason for their popularity these days, and not just among the vegetarians among us. Lentils, as part of the human diet, have been around for approximately 13,000 years. They come in colors ranging from red-orange to green, to  brown and black; and the cooking time varies from 10 to 40 minutes, depending upon the size and variety. They are a popular staple in the Mediterranean basin, Africa, South and West Asia.

We Latinos usually serve rice with beans (red/black/white). Conversely, in India, Pakistan and Egypt, the rice is mixed with the lentils. In Europe, North and South America, they are popular in soups. That being said, they are also a great source of iron, protein, amino acids dietary fiber, vitamin B, a minerals. Lentils are considered one of the healthiest foods around. Their pedigree is such that they are mentioned in the Christian and Hebrew Bible wherein Esau sells his birthright (i.e. his inheritance) to Jacob for a pot of lentil stew, or a "mess of pottage." (Note: if you want a good recipe for lentil stew, see my posting of 11/01/11---A Mess of Pottage).

Recently, I decided to mix lentils with salmon, one of my favorite fish variety. The result is the recipe given below. You can cook the fish in an outdoor grill and have it barbecue style. Or you can use the oven broiler. Either way you have a delicious and garlicky (yes, I love garlic) entrée.

SALMON WITH LENTILS

5 tablespoons olive oil (plus more if you're grilling)
6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced into rings

2 cups lentils (I use green lentils; but other types may be substituted)
4 cups water
1 bay leaf
1 bunch parsley, washed and chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme

Juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup fresh basil, washed and chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, washed and chopped

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
2 pound salmon fillets, cut into 4 equal pieces, skin left on
1/4 cup scallions, rinsed and finely sliced

1. In a medium saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add 3 cloves garlic and onion; and saute until onion is transparent.
2. Add lentils, water, bay leaf, parsley and thyme. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until lentils are tender, about 25-30 minutes. The lentils should be tender but still somewhat firm. Do not overcook. Drain lentils of any extra liquid that may be in the saucepan. Add 1 tablespoons olive oil, remove from heat and set aside.
3. While lentils are cooking, whisk together in a small bowl the remaining garlic cloves, 2 tablespoons oil, lemon juice, basil, mint, and oregano. Add this dressing to the lentils. Stir to mix, and season  with salt and pepper. Set aside and cover to keep warm.
4. Cook the salmon: Preheat a grill or broiler, or prepare a charcoal fire in an outdoor grill. Rub salmon pieces with olive oil and rub with salt and  pepper. Place salmon pieces on grill, skin side down and cook for 5 minutes. Turn over gently with a spatula and cook on the other side, 2-5 minutes until desired doneness. If broiling, broil on one side only until done, 5-8 minutes.
6. Divide lentils among four dinner plates. Arrange salmon pieces over lentils and sprinkle with sliced scallions.
    Yield: 4 servings

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