Daily Archives: August 17, 2007

Definition: Legumes

Lightly Curried Lentil Hummus 2

I was hanging out with some friends back east last weekend, and someone brought out a game called Catch Phrase. It’s a fun game, if you’re into that sort of thing. (I am.) I’m sure there’s a proper way to play, with teams and points and such, but in our version, eight people sit around in a circle and pass an electronic doohickey from person to person, and everyone else tries to guess the phrase the doohickey shows its current holder on a little digital screen. There’s lots of shouting and giggling, so it’s hilarious, especially when you’re with people whose intelligence you normally admire. Said intelligence circles the drain.

Once I got “OHIO.” I started like this: “Okay, it’s a state in the middle of the country . . .” Before I could get to presidential primaries someone yelled out “PHOENIX.” And so on. The simplest words were the most fun – words like “HELIOTROPE” move the game from spastic screaming (=fun) to thoughful silence (=not as fun).

Later on, when the wine had been flowing, I got “BAKED BEANS.” “These are legumes cooked in an oven!” I blurted out, oh how clever am I? Turns out not many people know what legumes are – much to my disappointment, it took me a solid 30 seconds to wrastle the correct answer out of someone’s mouth.

(And in case I’m making it sound like I was never the one whose brain malfunctioned, I apologize, because that would be incorrect.)

So, for the sake of all game players out there: according to the lentil lore page on the National Lentil Festival website (the festival takes place in Eastern Washington, and starts today), legumes are seeds that grow within pods. Beans, lentils, peas, etc. are all legumes. They’re good for you. And if I have my way, the word legume will soon work its way into our daily vocabulary somehow (it’s such a great word), maybe as an adjective. Use legumic to describe someone who’s hiding something good: I heard she’s been dating him for months, and she didn’t even tell us! She can be so legumic sometimes. Or maybe to describe someone who’s pregnant: Did you hear? She’s legumous. A pea in the pod!

There must be some good application.

Anyway. I bought some cooked lentils in the refrigerated section of Trader Joe’s a few weeks ago, meaning to make a salad for Sarah. But the salad was not meant to be, and this lightly curried spread, which shocked me by turning a rather interesting shade of green in the food processor (so maybe lentils are green inside?), turned out to be a delicious alternative.

Mmmm. Legumes.

Lightly Curried Lentil Hummus 4

Lightly Curried Lentil Hummus (PDF)
Recipe 229 of 365

Technically, hummus is made with chickpeas, usually along with tahini, lemon, garlic, and olive oil – so this isn’t technically a hummus, but it has the same smooth texture, and has thus far proved just as useful. You can also skip the blending process and just serve the curried lentils and onions as a side dish.

TIME: 20 minutes active time
MAKES: 8 servings (as an appetizer)

1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup olive oil (divided)
1 medium onion, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
1 pound cooked lentils, such as those sold at Trader Joe’s

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add 1 tablespoon of the oil, then the onion, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add garlic and spices, and cook 2 more minutes, stirring. Add lentils, cook 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer lentils to a large food processor (not the mini kind), add the remaining 1/2 cup oil, and puree until very smooth. Taste for seasoning. Spread on crackers, naan, or sandwiches.


Filed under appetizers, recipe, vegetables