Tuesday, January 24, 2012

All About Lentils

Lentils aren't expensive, but don't let their price make you are getting something cheap. As far nutrition goes, it is the best bang for your buck. Even Esau famously sold his birthright to Jacob for a mess of the stuff. Yep, biblical pottage was lentils. And would I ever love to have that recipe.

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? 


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  2. I tried your Yellow Daal recipe tonight. The flavor was good, but I think I overcooked it. It turned out almost the consistency of mashed potatoes. Is that how it supposed to be? The only thing I've ever done with lentils is add them to soups or make Vegetarian Sloppy Joes, so I appreciate the recipe, especially because it uses spices I already have in my cupboard. Thank you!

  3. No- you did fine- that is exactly how they yellow lentils turn out- only the French green lentils I mentioned really hold their shape. Glad you liked the flavor. Good to have you here.

  4. So after reading this post I realized I missed the perfect first baby food with my older daughter and when our new baby was ready lentils were her first food. She didn't love them and my 2.5 year-old hated them (she does love spicy tomato lentil soup though), but we will keep trying. Thanks for the suggestion!


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