Compared to other types of dried beans, lentils are relatively quick and easy to prepare. I think they look more like baby dried peas than dried beans. Lentils readily absorb the flavors from other foods and seasonings in your recipe. Lentils are high in nutritional value and are available throughout the year.
Lentils are legumes and grow in pods that contain either one or two lentil seeds that are round, oval or heart-shaped disks and are oftentimes smaller than the tip of a pencil eraser. They may be sold whole or split into halves with the brown and green varieties being the best at retaining their shape after cooking.
Lentils are a very good source of cholesterol-lowering dietary fiber. Not only do lentils help lower cholesterol, they are of special benefit in managing blood-sugar disorders since their high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising rapidly after a meal. Lentils’ contribution to heart health lies not just in their fiber, but in the significant amounts of folate and magnesium.
Lentils are good sources of iron, protein, phosphorus, copper, dietary fiber, manganese, molybdenum, folate, minerals, soluble and insoluble fiber, fatty acids, amino acids, thiamin and potassium.
Lentils are very low in calories too!
Believed to have originated in central Asia, lentils have been consumed since prehistoric times. They are one of the first foods to have ever been cultivated. Lentil seeds dating back 8000 years have been found at archaeological sites in the Middle East.
Lentil Salad Recipe
1/4 cup Fresh Lemon Juice
1 Tb Olive Oil
1 clove Garlic, mashed
1 tsp Italian blend of herbs (I think the best are at Mountain Rose Herbs)
2 cups cooked Red Lentils
1/2 cup Diced Celery
2 cups Fresh Ripe Tomatoes, diced
2 Green Onions, thinly sliced
Wash, pick over and rinse lentils. Boil lentils in a quart of water until barely tender, about 30 minutes. Drain. Dressing: whisk together lemon juice, Italian seasoning, mashed garlic and olive oil in a bowl; set aside. Add celery, tomatoes and green onion to cooled, cooked lentils. Add dressing, chill and serve cold. Salt to taste.
Yield: 6 servings
Bob’s Red Mill has an excellent selection of grains, beans, and lentils, available at BobsRed Mill.com and most stores carry a small selection of Bob’s Red Mill products.
Store lentils in an airtight container in a cool, dry and dark place. Stored this way, they will keep for up to 12 months. If you purchase lentils at different times, store them separately since they may feature varying stages of dryness and therefore will require different cooking times. Cooked lentils will keep fresh in the refrigerator for about three days if placed in a covered container.
Tips on Cooking Lentils
Lentils can be prepared the day of serving since they do not need to be presoaked. Before washing lentils you should spread them out on a light colored plate or cooking surface to check for, and remove, small stones or debris. After this process, place the lentils in a strainer, and rinse them thoroughly under cool running water.
To boil lentils, use three cups of liquid for each cup of lentils. Lentils placed in already boiling water will be easier to digest than those that were brought to a boil with the water. When the water returns to a boil, turn down the heat to simmer and cover. Green lentils usually take 30 minutes, while red ones require 20 minutes.
Cooking times can be slightly adjusted depending upon the final use. If you are going to be serving lentils in a salad or soup and desire a firmer texture, remove them from the stove top when they have achieved this consistency, typically 5-10 minutes earlier than their usual cooking time. If you are making dal or some preparation that requires a mushier consistency, achieving this texture may take an additional 10-15 minutes.
About Brown, Green and Red Lentils
- Brown Lentils: are the most common variety of lentil. They can range in color from khaki-brown to dark black, and generally have a mild earthy flavor. They cook in about 20-30 minutes and hold their shape very well. Common varieties are Indian Brown, Spanish Brown, German Brown. The blackest and tiniest lentils you find are usually Beluga lentils, which have a rich and deeply earthy flavor.
- Green Lentils: are a pale or mottled green-brown color with a glossy exterior. They have a robust, somewhat peppery flavor. Green lentils generally take the longest to cook, approximately 45 minutes or a little longer. They have a firmer texture even after cooking. This makes them perfect for salads. Look for Lentilles du Puy, Puy lentils, or French Green lentils.
- Red Lentils: range in color from gold to orange to actual red. Red lentils are the sweetest and nuttiest of the lentils. They’re somewhere in the middle in terms of cooking time and are usually done in about 30 minutes. They tend to get mushy when cooked through, so they’re perfect for Indian dals and other curries, or for thickening soups. A few varieties are Red Chief and Crimson, and you’ll often find them in Indian or Middle Eastern markets labeled as masoor (red lentils) or channa (yellow lentils).
Preparedness Tip: If you’re creating an Emergency Preparedness Kit, Lentils would be a perfect dried food to include.
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