Lentils are actually edible seeds and are part of the legume family. There are a number of varieties: brown, green, puy, yellow, red, and beluga. Each type of lentil offers its own variation of nutrients, such as antioxidants and phytochemicals, but they are all an excellent source of protein, folate, iron, and fiber, among other vitamins and minerals.
Buying and storing
When buying dried lentils, look for bright colored lentils with a uniform size and smooth skins and without chips or shriveled skin.
Store in an unopened package or air-tight container in a cool, dark, dry place. Cooked lentils store well for up to 3 days in the refrigerator or several months in the freezer.
Preparing and Cooking
Lentils do not require soaking. To prepare for cooking, just remove any shriveled or broken seeds, dried soil, or pebbles, then place in a strainer and rinse.
Combine 1 cup dried lentils with 2 cups of water. Bring the water to a rapid boil, then reduce heat and simmer gently. Cook uncovered for about 20-30 minutes. Add water as needed to make sure lentils are just barely covered. Lentils are cooked as soon as they are tender and no longer crunchy. Drain well.
Ways to enjoy
Lentils are versatile. They can be used in a variety of soups, salads, casseroles, and desserts.
- Mix cooked lentils into salad.
- Make lentil soup: Sauté 1 diced onion and 1 sliced carrot in 1 teaspoon vegetable oil. Add 4 cups vegetable broth, 1 cup dry lentils, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, and a dash of salt. Simmer until lentils are soft, about 45 minutes. Stir in 1 Tablespoon lemon juice.
- Lentils can replace ground beef in many recipes, such as taco filling, sloppy joes, and pasta sauce.
- Make lentil hummus: In a food processor, add 2 cups cooked lentils, 1 cup cooked or canned and dried and drained garbanzo beans, 1/4 cup plain yogurt, 1 Tablespoon lemon juice, 1 clove crushed garlic, salt, and pepper. Pulse several times until finely chopped. Scrape down the sides then process on low, adding 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil slowly while the motor is running. Chill hummus in a bowl or container for at least 1 hour. Serve with veggie sticks or add to sandwiches.