Lentils with Rice and Tomato Onion Dressing is classic Peruvian peasant food that is delicious, filling, and healthy. The lentils are served with rice then topped with a dressing made of sweet onions and tomatoes soaked in a red wine vinegar dressing which completely brightens and flavors the dish. Can be made with bacon, ham, or vegetarian. ¡Al Ataque!
Ever have one of those days where you go to do laundry and find it’s five feet high when yesterday there was only a few items in the basket? You know, the kids “clean” their rooms and all of a sudden the laundry is piled to the ceiling? You get so frustrated and aggravated you feel like making them do it then realize you haven’t taught them yet. Well today was one of those days.
This little rant excludes my daughter because being my first child, I taught her everything I know. You have all that energy with that first child. You want them to know everything and show them everything. I found that with my second and third child, I might have slacked off a little in the laundry lesson. I didn’t slack on showing them how to cook. But, laundry? I definitely failed in that department.
I needed to teach my kids a lesson. I am planning on holding a family meeting during supper tonight while all of us are sitting at the table. My table is round which is perfect allowing me to see everyone’s face. In the meantime, what could I do to show them how aggravating it was to see that endless pile of clothes? A smile started to form on my face.
If I told you my family loved EVERYTHING I cooked, I would be lying. They might not love everything, but they will eat what I put in front of them. I’m not one of those parents who cook something different for a picky eater while the rest of us ate something else. It’s good for you, it’s delicious, and I don’t care what color it is, even if it’s green.
There is one thing that came to mind – Lentils. If I mention lentils is being served for dinner, I get the dropping of the shoulders, the feet dragging to the dinner table, and the blank stare of the plate. I love lentils as does my son, Ethan, but only if it includes bacon. Hubby and Ryan don’t put it on their list of favorites. If I really wanted to get hubby, I would make it vegetarian, but I’m not mad at hubby. Kids number 2 and 3 are who I’m aiming for. Lentils it is!
Lentils served with Perfect Rice and Tomato Onion Dressing is a meal I absolutely love. My Mom made it often with the salsa that included sweet red diced onions with chopped tomatoes, all seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic, oil, and red wine vinegar. Mixing it with the rice and salsa brings it to a new level. On it’s own, I admit lentils are plain. It’s meant to be served with the accompaniments. I make the Tomato Onion Dressing with either red onions or sweet onions depending on what I have on hand.
This is classic peasant food and it’s the type of food I grew up with. If I had to survive on twenty dollars a week, I would buy bags of lentils and a bag of rice and I’d be all set! I use brown lentils to make this dish.
First, you need to rinse the lentils. I place them in a bowl or large (4-cup) measuring cup, cover with water, swish around with my hand, and wait a few seconds for all the floaties to rise to the top. This is what you want to get rid of. Simply pour out the water being careful not to pour out the lentils. I repeat this process removing any debris that you find and strain the lentils.
You can make this dish 3 ways – with bacon (our favorite), with ham, or vegetarian.
To make this dish using bacon:
Place bacon in a large skillet over medium high heat and cook until crisp. Transfer bacon to a bowl and set aside. Saute the onion and garlic in bacon fat and continue with recipe.
In a large skillet, over medium high heat, add oil and saute onions until translucent – about 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute until fragrant – about 1 minute then continue with recipe.
If making with ham:
Add ham or Canadian bacon and cook until lightly browned then continue with recipe.
If making vegetarian:
In a large skillet, over medium high heat, add oil and sauté onions until translucent – about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant – about 1 minute.
Add lentils and water into skillet and stir. Add the granulated garlic and pepper.
As for the salt…I have always added the salt at this time. Supposedly, it’s a big no-no to add salt at the beginning of cooking lentils because it can make them tough. I have never experienced this and have done it like this all my life. If you prefer, you can add the salt towards the end of cooking and adjust from there.
Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Simmer for about 20 – 30 minutes until lentils are softened and have absorbed the water. You may need to add more water depending on your heat and simmering temperature. You can add ¼ cup at a time if you need to.
While the lentils are cooking, make the Tomato Onion Dressing:
Slice or chop onions and place in a bowl or large (4 cup) measuring cup. Chop tomatoes and add to onions. Season with salt, pepper, granulated garlic powder. Stir in the oil and red wine vinegar and let it sit while the lentils are cooking. If using red onions to make this dressing, you may want to check out my Salsa Criolla post for the technique of “washing” the red onion. You can add a little more oil if the vinegar is too strong. Honestly, I’m estimating amount of oil and vinegar as I don’t measure, rather I make this by tasting and adjusting. I suggest you do the same.
Stir, taste, and adjust for seasoning. This dish is meant to be served with Perfect Rice and Tomato Onion Dressing. The lentils will pick up the seasoning from the red wine vinegar in the Tomato Onion Dressing which will brighten the flavor of the dish.
Here’s the kicker, after we said Grace and started to eat, I waited for the grunts and moans about what was put in front of them. Instead, Ryan looked at me and said, “Hey, this is really good.” Then Ethan chimed in saying the ham tasted just as good as the bacon. Even HUBBY smiled and said he loved the meal. I can’t win. Next time it’s liver and onions!
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 onion, diced (about 2 cups)
- 4 garlic cloves, minced - approx. heaping tablespoon
- 1 pound bacon, Canadian bacon, or ham, diced (leave out if making vegetarian)
- 2 cups brown lentils
- 5 ½ - 6 cups water
- 1 teaspoon granulated garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
- Tomato Onion Dressing:
- 1 large sweet onion, diced* (about 2 cups)
- 2 tomatoes, chopped or 1 pint sweet cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- ¼ cup vegetable or canola oil
- 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
- ½ teaspoon granulated garlic powder
- Kosher salt
- Place lentils in large bowl or 4 cup measuring cup and cover with water. Swish around with your hand to “wash” them. Set bowl or cup down and you will notice floaties rising to the top. Carefully pour out the water that contain the floaties. Repeat and strain.
- If using bacon:
- Place bacon in a large skillet over medium high heat and cook until crisp. Transfer bacon to a bowl and set aside. Saute the onion and garlic in bacon fat and continue with recipe.
- If using ham or making it vegetarian:
- In a large skillet over medium high heat, add oil and saute onions until translucent - about 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute until fragrant - about 1 minute.
- If using ham, add ham and cook until lightly browned.
- Add lentils and water into skillet and stir. Add the granulated garlic and pepper. I have always added in the salt at this time too although to keep the lentils from splitting their skins, you should add the salt towards the end of cooking.
- Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Simmer for about 30 minutes until lentils are softened and have absorbed the water. You may need to add more water depending on your heat and simmering temperature. You can add ¼ cup at a time if you need to.
- Meanwhile, make the Tomato Onion Dressing:
- Add the onions in a bowl or large (4 cup) measuring cup. Add tomatoes and season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Stir in the oil and red wine vinegar and let it sit while the lentils are cooking. You can add a little more oil or vinegar. Taste and adjust to your liking.
- Stir the lentils, taste, and adjust for seasoning.
- Serve with rice and Tomato Onion Dressing. The lentils will pick up the seasoning from the red wine vinegar in the Tomato Onion Dressing which will brighten the flavor of the dish.
*You can use red onion but it is recommended you "wash" the onion by first placing it in a bowl with some kosher salt and water then squeezed and rinsed to remove the harshness of the onions. Repeat then continue with dressing.
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