This is a good time of year for lentils. They're tasty, they're warm, and they're cheap. And you can go from dry lentils to something edible in about 20-25 minutes (less if you don't mind a little crunch), which is more than you can say for most beans.
Spiced red lentils (masala dhal)
Cook a pot of red lentils (a couple cups) with a can of tomatoes. Season with cumin, turmeric, paprika, black pepper, cinnamon, and salt. A little garlic and some brown mustard seeds makes a nice touch -- you can pop the mustard seeds in a little hot oil in a pan (just cook the garlic and re-use the oil). If you don't think you have these spices, check the ingredients on any curry powder or masala mix you might have about. The lentils will turn to a wonderful salty, warmly-spiced sort of mush. About the only ways I've found to make it taste less than wonderful is to add too much turmeric or too little salt.
I learned this recipe -- or something like it -- from my friend Anant. He used a pressure cooker, but it doesn't seem to make that much difference: red lentils will turn into mush almost any way you cook them.
Brown lentil soup
Dice onions, bell peppers, and celery, and sautee them in a pan. Then add brown lentils and an appropriate amount of water -- the more water, the soupier the soup -- and (if you have them) carrots and potatoes. Add salt close to the end. I usually don't use other seasonings with this recipe, since the onion, peppers, and celery do the trick.
Take a half-head of red cabbage. Steam cook it with soy sauce, and perhaps a little vinegar. Add a handful -- or maybe a cup -- of brown lentils about five minutes before you're done. They should still be a little crunchy still when you finish, with a sort of nutty taste.
- Currently eating: Spiced red lentils
- Currently drinking: Gen mai cha (green tea with toasted rice)