Lentils with bacon is one of my favorite side dishes. This version is made with French green lentils, cider vinegar, smoked paprika, celery hearts and just enough bacon to make it yummy. It is naturally gluten-free and high in fiber.
This post was originally shared on January 4th, 2011. I am re-sharing it today with updated images and some of the text has been updated as well. To see the original photography, please scroll to the bottom of the post.
I don’t really believe in deprivation. I stir real half and half into my cup of coffee every morning. I eat dark chocolate almost every day. I haven’t sworn off white food or entire groups of food. But I do believe in moderation. I believe in getting lots of exercise, eating whole foods most of the time and trying to eat locally produced food when it makes sense. I like good food, and swearing-off any of it only makes me want it more. Sometimes I think people forget there is a difference between deprivation and moderation. Especially right now in the zealousness for all-in New Year’s resolutions and elimination diets.
I used to try a lot of diets and read a lot of diet books, but that ended a few years ago when I read “Intuitive Eating” by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD. It was the last “diet” book I ever read. This woman is right on! Here is a quote from a blog entry she wrote, “It’s easy to get caught up in the enthusiastic hoopla of the New-Year-Dieting-Season– with celebrity testimonials and promises anew. Instead, how about embarking on an inner journey–in pursuit of becoming the expert of your own body. It takes listening and inner attunement.” She goes on to describe that we are actually at risk of gaining weight from dieting. What Tribole is trying to get us all to do is to eat the way we did when we were little kids. She wants us to honor our hunger and then put the fork down when we are truly satisfied (not stuffed.)
Another foodie who preaches moderation is the fabulous Mark Bittman. I love what he calls being a “less meatarian.” He suggests that eating too much meat, as most Americans do, is not good for us or the environment. But he says we don’t have to give it up entirely. Instead try using meat as a condiment the way they have in the Mediterranean forever. Americans’ diets should be plant-based too, but we don’t have to give up the meat we love. For example, dieters may swear off bacon when they are thinking about making healthy changes to their diet. It’s fine to eat bacon, if that’s what you crave. But you don’t have to down the whole Grand Slam Combo at Denny’s to satisfy that craving.
Like this recipe for French Bistro-style lentils with bacon. It is hearty and satisfying plant-based dish, but it has enough smoky bacon flavor and extra-virgin olive oil to make it taste a little indulgent.
- 4 cups water
- 1 1/2 cups dry green french lentils, sorted, about 12 ounces
- 3 slices bacon
- 2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 large red onion, finely diced
- 1 1/2 cup finely diced celery hearts and leaves (the tender light green stalks in the center of the bunch)
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dry thyme
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- Bring water and lentils to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to maintain a lively simmer (medium-low) and cook, stirring occasionally until just tender, 15 to 22 minutes. Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup cooking liquid (see tip*)
- Meanwhile, cook bacon in a large skillet over medium-low heat, turning occasionally, until crisp but not burnt, 7 to 10 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a towel-lined plate. Pour off the bacon fat and gently wipe out the pan with a clean paper towel. When bacon is cool enough to handle, chop.
- Return the skillet to medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil. Add onion, celery hearts and leaves, garlic, salt and thyme and cook,stirring often until the onion is softened and the celery is crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Add the cooked lentils, vinegar, smoked paprika, pepper and 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking liquid and cook, stirring until the mixture is hot and thoroughly combined. Remove from the heat and stir in the chopped bacon and the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Serve warm.
2.6 mg cholesterol, 0 g added sugar
Tip* To reserve cooking liquid, place a large measuring cup or bowl under the strainer. The measuring cup/bowl will catch the cooking liquid.
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