Bonus Episode 108: Marisa Franz | Cooking Lentils from The Kitchen In Missoula | Missoula, MT

In episode 103 I interviewed Liz Carlisle who wroteLentil Underground Book Lentil Underground: Renegade Farmers and the Future of Food in America which is the story of some rengade farmers in Montana who chose to grow organically not just because it was better for their land but because it was better for their livelihoods!  David Oien from Timeless Seeds has been leading a movement to grow lentils “a cheap, healthy source of protein, rich in fiber, folate, Vitamin B1, and amino acids, lentils are drought tolerant and don’t require irrigation.”

Liz-Carlisle Author of Lentil Underground

Farmers in the conventional system are stuck growing mono-crops or a single crop like wheat, soy or corn. It isn’t good for the environment because if you’re not rotating your crops its gonna attract pests and requires a lot of pesticides. Entire farming systems are affected by climate change because they might get drought or downpours that lead to erosion etc. So these farmers figured out how to farm productively with all the uncertainty of the weather.  A big thing about lentils is they grow their own fertilizer so they help the soil!

David-Oien grower of organic lentils

The Kitchen in Missoula, takes your culinary expectations to new heights. They provide awesome food at reasonable prices for events and weddings. Private Chef Marisa Franz shares her cooking expertise with us about how to cook lentils today. Back from the classroom to help us.

The humble lentil there is so much you can do with it.

How much do people know?

I gave a brief introduction and I did interview Liz Carlisle, a little while ago, I did have a guest when I got back from the AERO conference where I interviewed Claudia from Claudia’s Mesa in Bozeman about how to cook lentils.  

I think I would start with the basics like: How they are easy to cook! How you can put them in anything pretty much!

Here’s the deal with lentils, I like to have them hanging around the house, it’s one of those things that’s always in my pantry because they can go in just about anything!

And they’re super easy to cook!  So what I tend to do is just make a big batch of them on Sundays and then keep it around the house during the week. We put them in tacos, you reheat them and put an egg on them for breakfast. They can go in just about anything.

Cooking Lentils

The first step in cooking lentils, let’s just say for math ease,  because a lot of people aren’t as nerdy as I am, let’s just stick to a cup.

Are we talking about cooked lentils or dried lentils?

Bags of Lentils

Dry lentils. Measure out a cup of dry lentils. If you have a meshy strainer, a colander.  If you just have a regular collander but you might lose some lentils, you want to rinse them because of the way they are harvested, you can find something that can not be in there. And honestly in as many years as I’ve been cooking lentils, I’ve never found anything, but its still something I do because it’s the one time I don’t do it is the one time I’m gonna chomp down on a stone and break a tooth.  So  just to be safe, friends, safety first when it comes to lentils and beans. Rinse your lentils, because they’re a sturdy legume they’re not gonna break if you go through them with your hands.

Then put them in a saucepan with a couple of quarts you’re going to want to add a couple of cups of liquid. Start with 2 cups of liquid. It can be just about anything can be water, chicken stock, vegetable stock, beef stock. Really whatever you want to do, I tend to use chicken stock. If I’m cooking about vegetarians, I use veggie stock because they get a little tricky about that. Water works too.

Bring them to a boil, heat all the way up, then turn it down and let it simmer for  about 20 minutes with the lid off. So lentils will suck up all that liquid, you need to keep the lentils covered. It’s not like rice or quinoa where it sucks up the liquid and it kind of steam cooks. The lentils are so dense I think for lack of a better word they need that constant addition of liquid.

1 cup of lentils 2 cups of liquid. I usually end up probably using 2 1/2 cups liquid. 

Put some seasoning in them.

Do not SALT them to the end !!! … I can not emphasize this enough!

If you’ve ever cooked lentils and then they are still hard when the time is up it’s because you salted.

You can salt but wait till the end, wait until their cooked and right before you take them off the heat. What I do is I dump a little garlic, and put a little crushed black pepper, taco seasoning.

We take a lot of overnight river trips during the summer and we happen to have a vegetarian that we go with all the time so lentil tacos is one of our go to meals because its really easy to make in a dutch oven over the fire. So you do the whole lentil thing, then you add a couple of tablespoons of taco seasoning.

What’s taco seasoning? Is that something that’s already mixed. 

Good Food Store it has cumin, and peppers and maybe a little salt, put it on the lentils about halfway through so the lentils have time to get tender. It’s one thing we will always eat.

The thing i love is that you don’t have to soak them overnight.

For the most part I buy canned beans, I don’t buy dried beans even though I know it’s cheaper because i’m so impatient. I very much cook on the fly. I want to make white bean and ham soup, so I don’t have the time to

I stock up on canned beans when their on sale.

We use a lot of beans at my house so we use both, canned and dried.

I’ve never seen a can of lentils.

And I’ve looked because Tim Ferris who wrote the Four Hour Work Week and the Four Hour Body and the Four Hour Chef talks about canned lentils and lentils as an amazing protein source and so I looked a lot! It think the one place I found them was at the Good Food Store!

Taco Lentils

One of the staples in our house is lentil tacos. You take some corn tortillas, heat those up in the  oven to 300º. Then spray with foil with canola oil spray, whatever you get from COSTCO.

Stack the tortillas, cover them up and warm them in the oven.

Lentils go in the taco, cheese, lettuce, salsa, really whatever you have on hand. That’s the great thing about tacos you can pretty much put anything on them. It’s a great way to clean you the produce in your fridge. The taco season lentils, if John has to get up early and go to work, he can cook himself an egg and its an easy meal to keep him going through a 12 hour day. And its easy and quick and delicious and they cook really well.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas

Another thing I like is I make something called sweet potato and black bean enchiladas.

It’s another way to use up everything in your produce bins! You take some cooked sweet potato mash it with cream cheese. If you’re used to eating vegan cream cheese it will taste delicious. Take a can of drained black beans, or lentils if that’s what you have, I’ve done it with both, basically you add:

  • onions
  • peppers
  • squash
  • everything but mushrooms everyone I cook for has basically hates mushrooms so I stopped putting them in for myself.
  • kale
  • spinach
  • zucchini
  • tomatoes

then you have this enchilada filling add more taco seasoning, put enchilada sauce over it and bake it for 45 minutes.

It’s also something really hardy, I cooked a tray of these the other night of these, I want to say it made 8. I used one sweet potato and one can of beans, 1 – 8oz thing of cream cheese, that’s enough to make 8-10 enchiladas. Then if I have any filling left over I’ll reheat it with an egg over it or I’ll freeze it!

You can bake it for an hour and if I am making them for a crowd, I usually put them in the oven in the beginning of the day. If I’m doing a small pan, one sweet potato I’l just put it in the microwave, punch a bunch of holes, wrap it in a wet paper towel around it, it keeps it a little more moist!

Once it’s tender and done, cut it in half, let it cool a little, because you can burn your hand, then scoop out the flesh, pour the flesh on the cream cheese and it helps melt the cream cheese and then it’s easy to mash in a bowl.

Those are 2 easy and hardy ways to use lentils.

I think they’re perfect cause I was thinking about people going to a potluck or entertaining for New Years.

With lentil tacos, I’ll bake a big batch and I’ll tell everyone to bring a topping. It is best to assign toppings. Otherwise you’ll just end up with jalapeños and tomatoes.

What other toppings would people bring?

You can do cabbage, you can do blue cheese, Manchego, cheddar, jalapeños, you could do a cilantro lime sauce which you could make with cilantro, lime juice and sour cream.

That’s what I was wondering if you ever used sour cream instead of cream cheese?

Not in the mix, I will put sour cream on top. I also use greek yogurt pretty much all the time.

chopped up tomatoes As a side you could just do a nice big salad.

That’s something I put my lentils on a lot, I’ll take a salad to school and just put a scoop of lentils on greens cause they’re good with the salad dressing. I’m a salad dressing junkie.

Goddess Bowl

This other thing I make, from a vegan and gluten free website, called a Goddess Bowl. It’s got lentils, peppers, and kale with this tahini dressing. It’s from It’s vegan and gluten free. Lentils are delicious

Lentil Soup

There’s always lentil soup. That’s an easy go to. Lentils, again, wait till salt till the end. Whatever veggies you have and veggie stock. I buy the big wedges of parmesan from Costco. Really like one wedge it takes me like a year to go through it, but I have these cheese bags from France.

They’re wax on the inside, paper on the outside. They’re expensive to buy so I only use them rarely. Parmesean is something you can use a little of, then save the rind and pop a parmesean rind into your soup. If you want a little of that nutty cheese

I use bay leaf in my beans, I thought it was to help so you don’t get gas. My mom has the most beautiful bay leaf tree/plant. 

I don’t know if that’s just an old wives tale. You don’t think something that small can really make a difference but it does. I have some fresh ones because I used some fresh bayleaf and eucalyptus to garnish a cake last week.

Something else that a lot of people cook, this is a southern thing. Black eyed peas, meant to bring prosperity, so that’s something a lot of people cook on new years day. Something to look into if you are looking for something original to do! I have no idea how to cook them, but I imagine the same as the lentils or beans?!

How do people contact you?

Super busy with some holiday parties up here!

The Kitchen in Missoula Facebook Page and our Kitchen In Missoula website or you can follow me on Instagram

All those things if you like food porn that’s where it’s at?!

About the author, Jackie Marie

I'm an artist and educator. I live at the "Organic Oasis" with my husband Mike where we practice earth friendly techniques in our garden nestled in the mountains of Montana.

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