By Deborah Goldstein
The lentil bean, the unsung hero of protein-packed food, is a delicious source of inexpensive nourishment. This tiny pulse seed, found in various colors, is a nutritional powerhouse that’s been used as a dietary staple worldwide for at least 8,500 years. Yet, this legume only reached the United States in the early 20th century. As recently as 20 years ago, the lentil was undervalued, underused, and underappreciated on our shores.
Lentils boast high protein, dietary fiber, folate, vitamin B, minerals, and lots of iron. To compare: 100 grams of lentils have as much protein as 134 grams of beef. Note, however, that while these little beans are packed with protein, they must be combined with another incomplete protein for maximum impact (keep your eyes out for my upcoming article about combining proteins). Green lentils are fiber-packed, containing 31% of the RDA. The red variety contains a lower concentration of fiber – still impressive at 11%.
Red lentils, green lentils, yellow lentils, black lentils: There are dozens of varieties grown in India and the Middle East. Most popular in the U.S. are the green and brown varieties, as they hold their shape best. (Red lentils, also known as masoor dahl, cook quickly and “fall apart,” rendering them ideal for the Indian dahl).
Handle With Care
Unlike other legumes, lentils don’t need to be presoaked for cooking, making them a quick meal component without advanced preparation. Remember to rinse, and check for stones and other foreign material before adding them to water to cook. Unlike other legumes, it’s possible to eat lentils raw (when sprouted), which greatly increases nutritional levels. Otherwise, turn dry lentils into soup, stew, or salad.
Red Wine Lentils
Try Dijon Red Wine Lentils as a side dish for meat or chicken. Chef’s tip: To avoid making lentils tough, don’t add salt until the end of cooking.
Prep time: 2 minutes
Cook time: 30 min.
1 cup beluga lentils
3 cups water
3/4 cup red wine
1 Tbsp Dijon
Salt and pepper,
Boil water with lentils. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until lentils are al dente and water is absorbed. Add wine and reduce until lentils are creamy. Add Dijon.