The easiest to cook of all legumes, lentils make a simple dinner. Unlike most beans that need at least an hour to cook and do best with an overnight soak, lentils need no special treatment. They cook up with no soaking in about 12-15 minutes. Lentils can be last minute, but are also fantastic when cooked slowly until they become a bit of a savory porridge, like a typical Indian daal. I wrote about my favorite one already here. The texture is mellow and smooth, a reason why this is the most common first solid food for babies around the world.
Lentils are rich in fiber and just one quarter cup gives you more than a quarter of your daily fiber needs. Folate is also another of the lentil's superpowers. Folate is the magic stuff that promotes growth of new cells, which is why it recommended for babies and those who are growing babies, the pregnant and breast-feeding mothers. Folate also does good for those with anemia, but promoting the growth of healthy red blood cells. Lentils are also a great source of iron, which helps you feel full and energized as it cells loaded with it can carry more oxygen than those running on empty. Yes, you can get iron in other places, but lentils provide it without much in the way of calories, fat or expense.
If you are new to lentils and wary of their tendency to turn to mush or porridge quickly, I recommend trying French green lentils or lentils de Puy. This lentils are my favorite and the most attractive of them all. Up close these lentils look like tiny stones, dark green, flecked with dark gray spots. They cook up firm and flavorful. I love making these into a simple salad tossed with homemade vinaigrette that is as good cold as it is hot, packable for lunches and picnics, french green lentil salad is a staple.
Whatever lentils you like, they are pantry essentials; they store forever, cook up quickly and are packed with nutrition.
Do you like lentils? What is your favorite thing to do with them?