Ingredients

Lentils

When I am giving lectures I love to talk about lentils. Legumes are one of my favorite ingredients and lentils are one of my favorite legumes. They keep well in the cupboard, cook quickly and there are dozens of ways to use them - in soups, salads, stews, chili or simply as a side dish.

Lentils, like peas, garbanzos and peanuts, are legumes. You can think of them as a starch since they are mostly carbohydrate and protein with essentially no fat. They best part is that they contain tons of fiber with a half cup of cooked lentils coming in at around 8 grams.

You can find references to lentils in the Bible and they have been found in Egyptian tombs (dried lentils do keep well). Like other legumes you can cook and serve lentils whole, but they are also great pureed into in soups and sauces. Because they are so tiny, dried lentils don’t have to be soaked overnight like other legumes. It is a good idea to rinse them well because they contain a lot of dust and dirt. Boil very gently, testing often for doneness.

There are three main types of lentils. The most common is the brown lentil, sometimes labeled Indian Brown Lentil or German lentil. I have seen these repeatedly mislabeled as green lentils, but strictly speaking they are not. They are light brown in color and are easy to find on your grocery store shelves. They cook quickly and will be mushy if you cook them too long. This does make them perfect for soups and will give the soup a rich thickness.

The small dark green lentil is also known as the French lentil. You might find them labeled Puy lentils or by the French term "lentilles vertes du Puy." They have a thin shell and a stronger pea-like flavor. These are slightly tough and take longer to cook. I love to use these in salads and side dishes, such as pilafs, because they hold up well to cooking and won’t turn to mush.

Red (pink) and yellow lentils have had the hull removed and are split much like split peas. As a result they will cook more quickly than brown or French lentils. These are slightly smaller and not as plump as green lentils and have a milder flavor. In India yellow lentils are known as moong dal and red lentils known as masoor dal. You might also see the pink lentils labeled Egyptian lentils.

Lentils store well. Keep them in a Ziplock bag and place the bag inside a plastic container. Because they are quick cooking you will always have the starter for a great quick meal.

1/4 cup uncooked lentils = 169 calories, <1 gram fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 0 gram monounsaturated fat, 12 grams protein, 34 grams carbohydrates, 15 grams fiber, 3 mg sodium, 0 mg cholesterol, 2 mcg Vitamin K

1/4 cup uncooked pink lentils = 166 calories, <1 gram fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 0 grams monounsaturated fat, 12 grams protein, 28 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 3 mg sodium, 0 mg cholesterol, 0 mcg Vitamin K

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