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The description of cooking lentils shows a personal knowledge of the practical requirements of cooking. Anthimus instructs the reader to cook the lentils in two changes of water, discarding the first. (I actually add a rinse step after draining the first water and before starting the second boiling.) After they are cooked, he has you add a little vinegar, a little salt, some olive oil, and "Syrian sumach" (as well as fresh coriander). In my hunt for this unusual spice, I started by settling for an American variety of sumach (the berries are the spice) from an herbal store, but eventually ran across some commercial culinary sumach that (although the species isn't listed on the package) I believe is the correct Old World variety. The sumach adds a slightly sour and bitter taste -- very interesting.
My preference in this dish is for "French" green lentils. The seem to hold their shape better under cooking and create a more interesting texture. In one experiment (to be added later) I tried for some visual variety by using a mixture of every lentil variety I could find in the store: regular green, French green, red, white, and black. What I discovered was that the regular and red varieties dissolved into mush in the time the others took to cook, and the black and French green varieties were indistinguishable when cooked. Only the white lentils both retained their shape and retained a relatively distinctive appearance. In general, sticking to just the French green variety seems to be the optimal approach.
(I'll add my early experiments later.)
These are the quantities for 50 people. Divide as appropriate for smaller numbers of people.
In a large pot full of water, soak for several hours:
(Soaking isn't strictly necessary for ordinary batch sizes, but when cooking this large a batch, it helped control the results more closely.)
Drain and add more than enough water to cover. Heat to a simmer and cook until the lentils start to soften. Drain. Add water to rinse and drain again. Add water to cover again and cook until tender. Drain. Stir in:
Let sit for at least 10 minutes for the flavors to mingle.
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