Sunday, November 7, 2010


If you have never used lentils in your storage or cooking, you would be very surprised to find out how versatile and good they really are. Vegetarians often use them as a meat substitute. They can be used in most recipes that call for beans. They are a great meat extender in other recipes. Best of all they are very nutritious and inexpensive to use ($.45 a pound at Winco) and to store.

Lentils are legumes that generally have a rich nutty flavor. They are grown in pods, which contain one or two seeds each. There are many varieties that are classified as large or small and are round, oval or heart shaped. They are generally no more than a ¼” in diameter. Lentils cook much faster than dried beans and do not require soaking. Lentil seeds are sold whole or split and some have had the hulls removed. The green and brown lentils, which hold their shape best after cooking, are the most common types used in the United States. Red lentils are also popular but they do not hold their shape as well when cooked. Lentils have good nutritional value, containing dietary fiber, B-vitamins, protein, and hardly any calories.

Lentils are generally used in soups and stews. Green and brown lentils hold their shape fairly well if not overcooked and can be added to salads and other dishes. The varieties that are soft after cooking are used mainly to thicken stews and soups or are made into purees.

Lentils are dried and are available throughout the year. The more common varieties are found in most food stores but some varieties are only available in Ethnic markets and specialty stores.

Lentils are sold prepackaged in boxes or bags, and they are also sold in bulk form. When buying in bulk, be sure that the lentil bins are covered and that the product is turned over often enough to ensure freshness.

Lentils can be stored indefinitely but after a year their color will begin to fade and they will become dryer and take longer to cook. Also, keep in mind that it is uncertain how old the lentils are when they are purchased so it is a good idea to only store lentils for six months. Do not mix newly purchased lentils in with the lentils you have stored at home because the lentils you have been storing will be dryer than the ones you just purchased. Different degrees of dryness will cause the lentils to cook unevenly. Store lentils in a sealable bag or airtight container in a cool dry area out of the direct sunlight. It is a good idea to reseal lentils bought in bulk in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers if you plan to store them for any length of time.

Cooked lentils can be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated for 4 to 5 days. Cooked lentils can also be stored in the freezer for up to six months, but freezing them may affect their texture when reheated. Here are some recipes using lentils. One lady suggested that when she needs a quick meal she cooks some lentils, some penne pasta and some broccoli, carrots and onion and combines them all with her favorite pasta sauce for an easy and quick supper.

Barbecue Lentils
(Like Baked Beans)
2-1/3 c. lentils, rinsed well
5 c. water
½ c. molasses
2 T. brown sugar
1 T. vinegar
½ c. ketchup
1 t. dry mustard
1 t. Worcestershire sauce (may use vegetarian variety)
16 oz. tomato sauce
2 T. minced onions
Green pepper diced
¼ t. liquid smoke, optional
Add lentils to water bring to a boil and simmer 30 minutes or until tender but whole. Add molasses, brown sugar, vinegar, ketchup, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, tomato sauce, onions, and liquid smoke to the cooked lentils, stirring to combine. Bake at 350º for 45 minutes. Yield: 8 servings

Red Lentil Curry
2 c. red lentils
1 large onion, diced
2 T. vegetable oil
1 (14.25 ounce) can diced fire roasted tomatoes.
Curry Mixture:
2 T. curry powder
1 t. ground turmeric
1 t. ground cumin
½ t. chili powder
1 t. salt
1 t. white sugar
1 t. minced garlic
1 t. ginger root, minced (or ginger paste)
Hot cooked Jasmine Rice
Chopped Cilantro (I love lots of cilantro)
Wash the lentils in cold water until the water runs clear (this is very important or the lentils will get "scummy"), put the lentils in a pot with water to cover and simmer covered until lentils tender(add more water if necessary). While the lentils are cooking: In a large skillet or saucepan, Sauté the onions in vegetable oil, until onions are translucent and tender. While the onions are cooking, combine the curry powder, turmeric, cumin, chili powder, salt, sugar, garlic, and ginger in a mixing bowl (or pestle and mortar). Mix well. When the onions are cooked, add the curry mixture to the onions and cook over a high heat stirring constantly for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the diced tomatoes and reduce heat, allow the curry base to simmer until the lentils are ready. When the lentils are tender drain them briefly (they should have absorbed most of the water but you don't want the curry to be too mushy). Mix the lentils into the hot curry mixture and serve over hot rice and cilantro on top

Lentil Tacos
1 c. lentils
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T. chili powder
2 t. cumin
1 t. oregano
2 ½ c. chicken broth
1 c. salsa
A bit of oil to sauté the onion and garlic
Taco shells and toppings
Rinse the lentils and drain them. In a large skillet, sauté the onion and garlic together. Add the lentils and spices, cook for a minute. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Uncover and cook a few more minutes to thicken. Add the salsa. Use this just like you would taco meat.

Really Good Vegetarian Meatloaf (really!)
2 c. water
1 t. salt
1 c. lentils
1 small onion, diced
1 c. quick-cooking oat
3/4 c. grated cheese (cheddar, Swiss, jack or American)
1 egg, beaten
4 1/2 oz. spaghetti sauce or tomato sauce
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. dried basil
1 T. dried parsley
½ t. seasoning salt
¼ t. black pepper
Add salt to water and boil in a saucepan. Add lentils and simmer covered 25-30 minutes, until lentils are soft and most of water is evaporated. Remove and drain liquid; partially mash lentils. Put into mixing bowl and allow to cool slightly. Stir in onion, oats and cheese until mixed. Add egg, tomato sauce, garlic, basil, parsley, seasoning salt and pepper; mix well. Spoon into loaf pan that has been generously sprayed with non-stick cooking spray and smooth top with back of spoon. Bake at 350º for 30- 45 minutes until top of loaf is dry, firm and golden brown. Cool in pan on rack for about 10 minutes. Run a sharp knife around edges of pan then turn out loaf onto serving platter. Serve with ketchup and brown sugar mixed together or your favorite barbecue sauce or mustard sauce.

Smoked Cheddar and Lentil Burgers
Yield: 8 servings
2 ½ c. water
1 c. dried lentils
2 bay leaves
1 t. olive oil
1 c. finely chopped onion
½ c. finely chopped carrot
1 c. (4 oz.) shredded smoked cheddar cheese
½ c. dry breadcrumbs
2 t. chopped fresh thyme
1 ¼ t. salt
¾ t. garlic powder
¾ t. paprika
½ t. freshly ground black pepper
¼ t. ground red pepper
3 large egg whites, lightly beaten
Cooking spray
8 t. stone-ground mustard
8 (2-oz.) whole wheat sandwich buns, toasted
8 (¼” thick) slices tomato
Lettuce leaves
Place first 3 ingredients in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes or until tender; drain. Discard bay leaves. Place lentils in a large bowl; partially mash with a potato masher. Cool slightly. Heat oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and carrot; sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Cool slightly. Add onion mixture, cheese, and next 8 ingredients to lentils; stir well to combine. Cover and chill 45 minutes. Divide mixture into 8 equal portions, shaping each into a ½” thick patty. Heat a grill pan coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add half of patties, and cook 5 minutes on each side or until done. Repeat procedure with remaining patties. Spread 1 teaspoon mustard on top half of each bun. Place 1 patty on bottom half of each bun, and top each serving with 1 tomato slice, lettuce leaf and top half of bun.

Moroccan Lentil Soup
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 t. chopped or grated gingerroot
1/8 t. crushed red pepper flakes (more if you like)
1 t. cumin
1/8 t. cinnamon
1 medium carrot, chopped or grated
1 rib celery, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes, pureed
3 cups chicken stock (or water and 2 bouillon cubes)
1 c. cooked small green lentils
1 c. cooked chickpeas
1 cups cooked, cubed chicken
½ T. lemon juice
1 Tbsp fresh cilantro
Heat oil and add onions, garlic, gingerroot, hot pepper flakes, cumin and cinnamon. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, stirring. Add carrot, celery and tomatoes. Bring to boil. Add chicken stock, lentils and chickpeas and continue cooking another 30–40 minutes. Add cooked chicken near the end. Season with salt and pepper according to taste. Add lemon juice and sprinkle with cilantro just before serving. If you make this soup ahead, it will thicken as it stands – just add water or broth according to taste.

Slow Cooker White Bean and Lentil Chili
1 cup uncooked white beans, such as great northern
2 cups steamed or uncooked lentils
2 c. diced cooked chicken
1 small green pepper, diced
4 c. chicken broth
1 T. chili powder
1 t. ground cumin
2 cloves chopped garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Garnishes: Shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese, Sour cream; Salsa and Tortilla chips
Place all ingredients in slow cooker. Cook on low 6-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours. Garnish as desired

Annette’s South of the Border Soup
1 c. chopped onion
1 c. chopped celery
1 clove garlic, minced
3 T. oil
2 qts. Beef or chicken broth
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 c. pearl barley
1 c. lentils, sorted and rinsed
¼ c. chopped green chilies (or 1 4 oz. can diced green chilies)
1 T. chili powder
2 t. cumin
Cayenne pepper to taste
Sauté’ onion, celery and garlic in oil till tender. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally and adding more liquid as necessary. Serve with sour cream and grated cheese. Y: 8-10 servings.

1 comment:

Gayle said...

I just found your blog. It is wonderful. So much information. I am printing off so many pages! Thanks for all the information! - Gayle