We most frequently see brownish/gray lentils, however they are out there in some happier colors like yellow, red, green, orange, also black, and you can get them whole or split, as in “split peas.” The dark-colored ones tend to keep their shape better after cooking and a certain chewiness. They also have a nuttier, heartier flavor.
In very broad and general categories, here are the most common kinds of lentils we see in stores: Brown Lentils – This is by far the most common variety and probably the one that you see at your local grocery store. They can range in color from khaki-brown to dark black, and generally have a pleasant earthy flavor. They cook in about 20-30 minutes and hold their shape very well.
Lentils are not beans but legumes, related to beans and peanuts. In some cultures, they are called pulses or pigeon peas. They rank second in bean protein content, second only to soybeans. Buy lentils canned, in clear packaging or in bulk at health stores.
Lentils are believed to have first been consumed in the Middle East 8000 years ago, when their valuable nutrition was especially important. They have ancient, biblical roots when Jacob allegedly purchased his birthright from Esau. (See old recipe for Esau’s Mess of Pottage at end of this articles.) Legumes are also an important part of the Jewish mourning tradition and a regular on Iranian and Ethiopian dinner tables. India depends on lentils for their dhal or lentil curry. Today, Canada, India and Turkey are the largest producers of lentils.
Lentils are a rich source of protein, also lysine, fiber, folate, zinc, iron, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium and vitamin B. Molydbdenum is also significantly present.
If you store uncooked lentils in a cool, dry, airtight container, they will keep well for up to a year.
Cooked lentils will keep fresh in the refrigerator for about three days in a covered container.
Unlike dried beans, lentils do not require an over-night soaking before cooking. Rinse dried lentils before cooking, removing any debris or broken ones.
- Soups and stews
- Indian dal
- Olives and olive oil
- Sweet red peppers
- Favorite herbs
- Soba noodles
- Ginger root
- Soy sauce
RECIPE FOR ESSAU’S MESS OF POTTAGE
- ¾ cup Brown rice
- 5 cloves Garlic
- 3 T. Olive oil
- ¾ cup Lentils, any color, rinsed
- 4 cups Water or broth
- 2 large Onions sliced thinly
- 1 t. Sugar for caramelization
- 12 Black olives, chopped
- Salt & Pepper to taste
Saute brown rice and garlic in olive oil in 4 qt. pan until lightly browned.
Add lentils, water and simmer on low heat for 35 minutes.
During this time slowly caramelize onions in separate pan until brown and toasty sweet.
Combine all and garnish with more olive oil and chopped black olives.
Below are foodsites with lentil recipes.