Years ago my grandmother stayed with us for a while after she had had a heart attack. One of the things her Doctor told her to regularly eat was lentils, so my mom had a small serving of them for her every night with her dinner. It makes sense, as lentils are really high in folate and magnesium, and also really high in fiber – all natural contributors to a healthy heart.

While mom was preparing them, one of my sibs asked her what they were and she answered “Grandma’s lentils.” Someone else heard it as “Grandma’s mental” and from that point on, lentils were mental – with a hilarity that only sweet adolescents could muster. I have no idea how my mother survived us…

Fast-forward 50-something years and we’re having Grandma’s mental for dinner.

A few months back I ordered a couple of bags of lentils, split peas, and some other things from Palouse Brand in Washington. I’m a great fan of good food and as long as I can afford it, I’m buying from direct from the growers.

Tonight it was time to open the second bag – a three-pounder. They’re Spanish Pardina lentils and have a great flavor and hold their shape when cooked, making them perfect for hot or cold dishes. Tonight was hot.

I have a recipe for a spicy salmon paired with lentils and while I was fresh out of salmon, I had plenty of chicken and plenty of spices, so off I went to play.

First was making the spice blend…

Spice Blend

  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper

Mix well. Store in an airtight container.

I oiled the chicken breasts with olive oil, lightly salted them, and then liberally doused them with the spice mixture before grilling.

Neither Nonna nor Blanche got the spiced version.

While they were sitting, I made the lentils…


  • 1 cup lentils
  • 1 onion
  • 1/3 cup dried apricots
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1/3 cup dried unsweetened cranberries
  • 2/3 cup pistachios
  • 1/4 cup parsley
  • 1 tbsp capers

Cook lentils in 3 cups unsalted water about 20 minutes or until done.

Saute diced onion in olive oil until translucent. Stir in lentils, apricots, raisins, cranberries, pistachios, parsley, and capers, mixing well.

Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper, as desired.

Grill chicken, plate the lentils, slice the cooked chicken and lay out on top.

The lentils were the perfect foil for the spicy chicken; the dried fruit played off the heat and the pistachios gave a nice crunchy contrast. A restaurant-worthy dinner in no-time!