- 1 cup lentils, such as German brown, beluga (black), LePuy, Pardina or other type
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1⁄2 onion, finely diced
- Scant 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- Sea salt
- Rinse lentils. Cover with boiling water and let stand for an hour or more. Or cover generously with cold water and let soak overnight. Drain before cooking.
- Warm oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until it begins to color and smell good, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and mash it around the pan for a minute or so, then add lentils, 3 cups water and a scant 1 teaspoon salt.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cover and cook for 20 minutes. Take a taste. They should be tender but still hold their shape. If not, cook them until they are done, then drain them. You can use the lentils right away, or let them cool in their liquid, cover and refrigerate for up to 5 days.
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This basic method of cooking lentils makes a perfectly good dish on its own with the addition of butter or olive oil, the aromatic grind of pepper and maybe a favored herb, such as thyme or parsley. But this is also how you start out if you are making another dish, such as lentil salad.
Although many cooks skip soaking lentils because they believe they cook quickly enough without it, I always prefer the results when I have soaked them. The exception is Indian red lentils. Because they are split, they cook very quickly without soaking, turning to mush before you know it.