Belugas Aplenty

Beluga is a whale, a social, playful and vocal creature. Beluga is also a flat fish, a sturgeon (from which we get Beluga caviar, that has nothing to do with the Beluga Whale). And Beluga is also a lentil. There are lots of names for lentils and other small beans, split or not, that resemble lentils. The Cooks Thesaurus is a great place to learn about lentils!
A less common lentil is the black Beluga. Small with a delicate earthy flavor, they glissen (see my picture) when cooked, reminding some of caviar. We know lentils are high in fiber but black Belugas contain the most protein of all lentil varieties.
This month, I participated in “HotM” or Heart of the Matter’s “slimmer recipes” topic, meaning tasty dishes that you eat when you want to loose some of that excess weight you may have accumulated over holiday celebrations. If you are not familiar with HotM, make sure to check it out. And remember food that is good doesn’t have to be boring or bland.

My friend Daniel Casbarro turned me onto to these little charms.
Daniel, who has a background in herbology, Ayurveda and healthy cooking, naturally creates dishes that are packed full of nutrition and good things. His Beluga lentil soup is perfect for this HotM topic: high fiber, low in fat, filling and satisfying. It carries you to the sixth sense: umami. At least it took me there!
I experimented with it and the results were good but please let me introduce you to his original version perfect for a colder day (minus the dulse and epazote because I didn’t have them).
You can usually find black Belugas at Corti Brothers and Whole Foods Market. Purcell Mountain Farms in Idaho, works with another farm south of them and sells wonderful Beluga lentils.
If you want ideas on what is heart healthy, go here. A big thank you to Ilva from Lucullian Delights for hosting this month’s HotM and keeping it going!
Black Beluga Lentil Soup
1 lb dried black lentils (about 2 cups), rinsed, soaked in 4 quarts water overnight or 6 hrs, drained
2 bay leaves
2-inch piece kombu
5 cups water
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
1 medium sweet potato, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chile powder
2 cups vegetable stock
2 teaspoons epazote
1 tablespoon molasses
1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
3 to 4 tablespoons fresh lime juice (can substitute lemon juice)
Garnish: chopped fresh cilantro, sour cream, and avocado (peeled and chopped)
Place beans in a 4-quart, thick-bottomed pot. Add 5 cups water, bay leaves, salt, kombu and baking soda. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer. Cover and let cook 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes, until beans are tender. Remove bay leaves.
Heat olive oil in a large 8-quart thick-bottomed pot on medium high until the oil is hot, but not smoking. Add the onions, celery, sweet potato and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and softened, about 10-15 minutes.
Reduce heat to medium and add the cumin, chili powder and garlic. Cook for an additional 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
Add the beans, their cooking liquid, stock, epazote, molasses, and bell pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 30 minutes.
Remove 4 cups of the soup (about half of it) to a blender. Purée until smooth and return to the pot of soup. (You may need to purée the soup in smaller portions, depending on the size of your blender. Don’t fill the blender more than half way at a time and hold the lid while blending.) Add 3 tablespoons of lime juice. Adjust seasonings as necessary, adding salt to taste. If on the sweet side, add a bit more lime juice.
Garnish and enjoy immediately. This soup is even yummier on the second day.

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