Saturday, March 19, 2011

home-sprouted lentils and quino

This week I wanted to mix up my grain-and-bean routine, and with spring right around the corner, decided it was time for some home-grown sprouts.

Green lentils and quinoa seemed good choices, since both happened to be in the pantry and from what I've read they are some of the easiest and quickest seeds to sprout. I didn't use any special sprouting trays or anything, just bowls covered with cheesecloth so the sprouts could breathe but were protected from dust and other undesirables. 

The handy website SproutPeople offers instructions on sprouting virtually any seed imaginable -- even fenugreek seeds, which I normally consider a spice and had never thought of sprouting. They also have a handy Sprouting 101 and glossary page (plus they sell a huge variety of organic grains, legumes, and other type of seeds so you can really go sprout-crazy). 

To get my sprouts started, I rinsed the lentils (1/2 cup, yields about 1-1/2 cup of sprouts) and quinoa (2/3 cup, yields about 1-1/2 cups of sprouts) and soaked them in separate bowls (8 hours for the lentils; just 30 minutes for the quinoa). Post-soak I drained off the water, rinsed the seeds, and put them back into their bowls, which I covered in cheesecloth secured with kitchen twine. Every 8 to 12 hours (morning and evening) I rinsed the seeds in a sieve, drained them well, and back they went into their bowls. The SproutPeople recommend tasting the sprouts as you go along -- you want to catch them at the crisp-tender stage. 

Forty-eight hours after the initial soak I had a batch of sweet-smelling quinoa sprouts, and in 72 hours the green lentil sprouts were crunchy and ready to use.  I've been adding the sprouts to all sorts of things, my two favorites so far being a creamy curried sprout salad and sprouted lentil miso soup. (The sprouts have stayed fresh in the fridge in covered containers with a piece of paper towel at the bottom to absorb moisture -- the drier they are, the longer they last).

It's pretty amazing to watch the transformation of the seeds from hard, starchy pellets into the tiniest of plants, fully alive, their delicate rootlets ambitiously unfurling as they grow. They're pure potential, just waiting for the right conditions and a little time to show their stuff. 

Sprouting also increases nutrient bioavailability in grains and legumes. The process inactivates the seeds' enzyme inhibitors -- substances that hinder the absorption of certain nutrients, especially minerals like zinc --  making it an effective way to enhance nutrient absorption.

As the lentils sprouted, they took on a sweet, grassy aroma and a flavor reminiscent of pea shoots and wheatgrass. More info on sprouting green lentils here.

Quinoa sprouts (shown here at 48 hours) grow quickly. Their little tendrils began unfurling during the first 12-hour sprouting phase, and by 48 hours they were ready to go (if sprouted too long they turn soft). Though raw quinoa has an assertive grassy aroma and flavor, as it sprouts the taste becomes sweeter, nuttier, and more mellow. More on sprouting quinoa here.

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creamy curried sprouts salad
This enzyme-rich salad combines crunchy lentil sprouts and nutty quinoa sprouts with bright ribbons of carrot, slivers of celery, and parsley, bound by a creamy curry-infused tahini dressing, and with a sprinkling of sunflower seeds on top for extra crunch. Tahini (sesame seed paste) is my go-to ingredient for making creamy dressings and sauces without dairy or eggs. It is an excellent source of protein, fiber, healthy fatty acids, and iron -- and naturally cholesterol-free.

2 heaping Tbsp tahini
juice of 1 lemon
3/4 tsp curry powder (I used Madras)
pinch of red chile flakes
1/4 tsp salt
a few grinds of black pepper
1/2 cup green lentil sprouts
1/2 cup quinoa sprouts
1 small carrot, peeled and sliced into ribbons with a vegetable peeler
1 celery rib, thinly sliced
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, roughly torn
Sunflower seeds, for garnish

In a large bowl whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, curry powder, red chile flakes, salt and pepper until smooth.

Add the sprouts, carrot, celery, and parsley, tossing well to coat with the dressing. Season to taste with more salt and pepper, if needed.

Sprinkle sunflower or pumpkin seeds on top.


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sprouted lentil miso soup
Over the last couple of days I've eaten this soup for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and can report that it's delightful at any meal. Chocked with toothsome lentil sprouts and tender strips of deep-green wakame, it's alkalizing, rich with with health-promoting probiotics, and a good source of calcium and iodine. I used a hearty, soy-free aduki bean miso from South River Miso, which infuses the broth with deep, almost meaty savoriness. Make sure to let the broth cool for a few minutes before incorporating the miso -- adding the paste when the soup is too hot can kill the beneficial bacteria. When reheating leftover soup, gently simmer for just a minute or so (don't boil).

1 onion, thinly sliced
1 carrot, sliced into thin quarter-moons
1 small parsnip, sliced into thin quarter-moons
2 garlic cloves, sliced
4 cups filtered water
1/2 cup sprouted green lentils
3 Tbsp dried wakame, soaked in 1/2 cup cool water for 10 minutes and drained
1 tsp grated ginger
4 Tbsp miso paste


Combine the onion, carrot, parsnip, garlic, and water in a medium soup pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes until the carrot and parsnip are tender. 

Add the lentil sprouts and wakame and simmer for 5 minutes more. Turn off heat and let the soup cool for a few minutes.

Transfer about 1 cup of broth to a bowl and add the ginger and miso paste, stirring until miso is dissolved. Pour back into the pot and stir to combine.