In my hometown there is a great thing that happens every year in August: the one and only National Lentil Festival!
Yes, there is a festival that honors lentils, and yes, it’s a national event. Just to make that clear.
The region where I grew up, the Palouse, grows a huge portion of the lentils consumed world wide so every year we have a great small-town festival honoring them, complete with the World’s Largest Bowl of Lentil Chili (we have a world record for it and everything!), a big parade, a lentil cook-off, and even a live Lentil Mascot, Tase T. Lentil!
It might sound a little corny, but it’s pretty fantastic. I think I’ve only missed one year of lentil festivities in my entire life. This year, I brought my boyfriend Dan (this is his second Lentil Festival!) and, of course, my crazy pup. Junior loves going to my parents’ house because his best friend ever, Gryff, a 3 year old black lab, lives over there. The two of them love getting in to trouble together, from digging holes in the yard to eating EVERYTHING they get their little paws on (more on that later).
We got to my parents’ late Friday night and watched the dogs frolic until they passed out, at which point I was more than ready to join them. Saturday morning I was going to run the Lentil Festival 5k with my mom, so obviously needed some sleep! Races are always stupidly early but fortunately the dogs were rowdy enough to wake everyone up on time.
As a side note on running, I got in to running half marathons a few years ago and run maybe 2 or so a year. I’ve started a collection of participant medals. I don’t run a lot of 5k’s, but when I do, I WANT TO WIN! I mean, who doesn’t? But seriously, I wanted to win the Lentil Fest 5k. And, after running as fast as I could up the hilly course, I came in first for my gender/age group! Which I was super excited about–I got a big white ribbon and an official Lentil Festival pint glass. After the run, we headed over to the Lentil pancake breakfast, where Dan had been put to work.
After our morning adventures, we watched the parade and spent some time enjoying the rest of the festival. I also made sure to judge the Official Lentil Cook-off! Because it is the National Lentil Festival, people all over the US send in great lentil recipes for everyone to try. I missed the deadline to enter the competition this year but, since I am writing a baking blog, I figured I had to make something! Plus, now I have a year to perfect my recipe before entering next year!
It is pretty dang good, already though: I modified a recipe for jam/oat bars by adding candied lentils. I wasn’t entirely sure how it would work out beforehand, but it turned out so well! The bars themselves are good, but adding the sweet, candy crunch of the lentils made them really really good! Lentils are pretty meaty legumes so after I candied them, they acted kind of like a candied nut. (But, if you are a little scared of adding lentils to your baked goods, you have my permission to make a lentil-free version; the bar recipe works well on its own too!)
Blackberry Oat Bars with Candied Lentils
Makes 20 bars
For the bars:
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup blackberry preserves (really any fruit jam/preserves will work)
For the candied lentils:
1/4 cup green or brown lentils
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon corn syrup
1/2 tablespoon butter
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line an 8×8 pan with greased foil. Rinse your lentils and pick out any shriveled ones. Add the lentils to a small saucepan and cover with 1/2 cup of water. Bring the pan to a boil then reduce heat to low so the water is barely simmering (you want to see a few bubbles but not much lentil movement). Cook the lentils for 15 minutes. They should still be a tad crunchy after the 15 minutes. If any water remains in the pan, drain the lentils before continuing. Once the lentils have been cooked, start the candy process. Combine the brown sugar, butter, and corn syrup in a small skillet over medium high heat. Stir together and cook until the mixture begins to boil and you see bubbles all over the candy surface. Add your lentils and cook for about 5-7 minutes until the candy mixture is thick and the lentils have toasted up a bit, stirring so the sugar doesn’t burn. Spread your candied lentils on a piece of parchment paper to cool.
Then, make the bars. Combine the brown sugar, flour, baking soda, salt, and oats in a medium bowl. Whisk until everything is combined. Cut the butter into small pieces and, using your hands, squish it into the dry ingredients until a dough forms. You could also use a pastry cutter, if you have one, but your hands work perfectly fine! Once everything is combined, add in the candied lentils. Press about 2 cups of this mixture into the bottom of your prepared pan. Top with the blackberry jam, spreading it to 1/4 inch from the edge of the pan. If the jam touches the edges, it’ll make a sticky burnt mess, so try and avoid it! Then, top the jam with the remaining dough, pressing it slightly into the jam. Bake for 35 minutes, until the top is golden brown.
Also, don’t leave these bars sitting out on the counter if you have silly pups! Junior and Gryff banded together to scarf down about 1/4 of the pan!