Lentils are one of the easiest and quickest legumes to prepare. They have a very mellow, somewhat earthy flavor, mostly taking on the flavor of the other ingredients they are cooked with. They’ve been a nutritional staple in many countries for thousands of years. They even enjoyed a moment in the culinary and literary spotlight (Genesis 25:27-34) when an apparently ravenous Esau traded his birthright for a bowl of lentil soup prepared by his brother Jacob. I wonder what was in that soup. Lentil soup is good, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t pay more than a couple of bucks for a bowl of it. Jacob must have been quite a chef. Too bad he didn’t have a blog to share his recipe on…
nutritional profile of lentils.
Lentils have an amazing nutritional profile, likely a contributing cause of their wide-spread use as a staple food. Over 30% of their calories is from protein and a one cup serving provides over 80% of your daily iron and phosphorus needs as well as an array of other essential vitamins & minerals, such as magnesium, zinc, B vitamins, potassium, and vitamins C and K. On top of that, they are very high in fiber, hence their notoriety, along with other beans, for being “musical fruit.” The nutrition facts displayed here are for 1 cup of raw lentils (nutrient info. from the USDA nutrient database).
Lentils are available in various colors, including brown, green, red, and yellow. Brown and green lentils retain their shape the best and contain more fiber than red and yellow varieties, which are skinless and disintegrate as they cook.
Yet another reason for the lentil’s popularity is the ease of storage and relatively indefinite shelf life. As with other dry goods, lentils keep best if kept in an airtight, cool, dry storage container and are best eaten within a year. With proper storage, they are safe to consume long after that, but color and flavor may go downhill.
To avoid seasoning your dish with a little extra dirt or small rocks, it is wise to spread lentils thinly over a towel to sort out any debris before rinsing them.
The nutritional content of lentils is enhanced by soaking them overnight (or with long cooking times). This allows two otherwise deficient essential amino acids to be released for absorption, improves digestion, and lowers phytates (the otherwise high phytate content can interfere with proper mineral absorption).
Boiling times vary depending on the variety of lentil chosen. On average, brown/green varieties take about 30 minutes; red/yellow varieties cook in 15-20 minutes.