Bean me up!

Do you like beans? How often do you eat them? Panamanians LOVE beans. We eat lots of them and on a daily basis. There are always beans next to your rice; it’s just the perfect marriage. I’m going to show you how I cook beans, sometimes in a traditional Panamanian style, sometimes with a Mexican flair and sometimes in the American way.

This post is for Lentils, possibly my favorite of all legumes. Lentils are creamy and mild, easy and quick to cook. They’re also quite versatile; you’ll find recipes to use them in soups, combined with rice, sometimes served slightly dry. They’re just delicious.  If you haven’t, you should definitely give them a try. They cook quickly without an inordinate amount of soaking.

Lentejas (Lentils)
2 cps dry lentils
2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 slices bacon or 1/4 cp salt pork
Inspect your lentils, you’ll want to get rid of any damaged or broken beans, and also check for stones or leftover husks. Once cleaned, put them in a bowl and rinse them, changing the water a couple of times. If you want, you can allow them to soak in hot tap water for about 30 minutes, but this isn’t necessary.

After soaking, drain the water and put the lentils, garlic and bacon in a medium pan. Add cool water to the pot, covering the lentils about twice over. You don’t want to add any salt before the lentils are cooked, otherwise the bean won’t break open. Bring it to a boil over high heat, then reduce the temperature to medium and cook for about one hour or until the lentils are tender. The water will cook into the beans and will evaporate considerably. Turn off the heat and set aside.

While the lentils cook, chop:
3 slices bacon or 1/2 cp salt pork
1 medium onion
1 garlic clove
1/2 cp cilantro
Cook the bacon to render some of the fat, it doesn’t need to be browned, then add the onions and garlic. Cook until the onions are translucent before adding the cilantro. Stir it in until the cilantro wilts then add this to the lentils and turn the heat to medium high. At this point season the lentils with salt or chicken bouillion and black pepper. Once this comes to a boil, lower the temperature to medium low and simmer for another 20-30 minutes.

You’re done! Serve with rice.