How To Make Lentils Taste Good

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If you hate lentils, chances are you have eaten them from a can. The first time I tried them was long before becoming vegan. The lentils were floating in a dirty, brown broth labeled by the Progresso company as soup. I was unimpressed, to say the least.

Since then, however, I have come to appreciate home cooked lentils for the clean, lean, whole food protein powerhouses they are, boasting 18 grams per cup. Not too shabby!

Through experience, I have learned the tastiest lentils are always cooked fresh.  By controlling the cooking and flavoring process can you truly have the best lentil experience.

Here is a simple, flavorful recipe  for  lentils you can dish over a steaming bowl of rice and announce that dinner is done.

 Lentils For Dinner

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons Olive oil
1/2 cup Celery, finely chopped
1/2 cup Carrot, finely chopped
1/2 cup Onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp. Minced garlic
1 tbsp. Ginger, fresh–grated or finely chopped

1 cup Lentils, brown–rinsed, removing any stones or foreign matter

1 Bay leaf
2 cups Water
1 tsp. Salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Method:

Heat large, deep skillet or dutch oven over medium heat and sauté onion, carrots and celery in olive oil with a pinch of salt until onion is translucent and carrots are crisp-tender (about 7 minutes).

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Add ginger and garlic and sauté another 2 minutes.

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Pour 2 cups of water into the vegetable mixture along with the rinsed lentils, bay leaf and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered until lentils are tender, but not mushy *(about 20-25 minutes), with most or all of the water absorbed. You want them to simmer–bubbling nicely,  not to boil like crazy. This will make them break apart and get mushy.

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Taste for salt and add more if needed, along with a generous grind of fresh, black pepper.

*Note: Cooking time can vary slightly from brand to brand, so it’s a good idea to check in periodically and see how the lentils are coming along, giving them a little stir. Pull one out and bite into it at about the 20 minute mark. The last thing you want is to overcook them. Al dente (firm to the bite) is my goal, so I can toss any leftovers into a cold salad the next day.

 

Soup Magic: Hearty Lentil

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Lentil is one of my favorite high-protein meal soups. It’s simple and low maintenance, and comes together in just a few minutes.

 I enjoy cooking soup on the stove—that aromatic slow-simmering, stirring, tending, nurturing activity.

But, during the work week I usually don’t have that kind of time. The last thing I want to read in a crockpot recipe is the direction to sauté vegetables before adding them to the crockpot. If I had time to do that, well I would probably take it all the way on the stove!

Instead, I left my crock pot in charge this morning, and brisked out the door for work. By lunch time I had a rich, satisfying stew, and lots of it. I think about what a prepared cup of soup costs, about $3. For less than that, I could feed a family of four, dinner sized portions of this hearty, healthful, tasty meal. Just saying…

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Hearty Lentil Soup

1 ½ cups raw brown lentils, rinsed

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium onion, diced

2 or 3 carrots, peeled and diced

2 or 3 stalks celery, diced

Handful of celery tops (optional)

2 bay leaves

1 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. ground coriander

Big sprig of fresh thyme (or 2 tsp. ground)

5-6 cups vegetable broth (or water)

Fresh ground black pepper to taste

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Prepare all ingredients and add to crockpot. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours. Stir and check for seasonings. Depending on your broth, you may wish to add salt. With a pair of tongs or a fork, fish out and discard the bay leaves, thyme stems and celery tops, if used. Add a generous grind of pepper and add broth if needed, depending on how “soupy” you like it.

Yield:  4-6 big servings

Indian Lentil Salad with Curry Vinaigrette

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Where I am getting my lean, mean protein lately? Why lentils, of course! These friendly little legumes pack 18 grams of protein per cup. Here is a delicious way to prepare them!
Indian Lentil Salad with Curry Vinaigrette
from The Curry Book by Nancie McDermott
Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil (or water)
  • ½ cup celery, finely chopped
  • ½ cup carrot, finely chopped
  • ½ cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. finely minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp. finely minced ginger
  • 1 cup brown lentils
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 2 scallions
  • 2 tbsp. cilantro, chopped
  • ¼ cup curry vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Method:
Saute celery, onion, carrot, garlic, and ginger in oil (or water) until soft (about 10 minutes). Stir in lentils, water, bay leaf and salt. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer over low heat until lentils are tender, but still whole.
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Remove the lentils from the heat, draining any excess water if necessary. Set aside and allow to cool slightly, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, make the dressing.
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Curry Vinaigrette
  • ½ cup olive oil (see note below)
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. shallots
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp. curry powder
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
Method: Whisk together the vinegar, spices and sugar. Slowly stream in the olive oil while whisking constantly. When oil and vinegar are well incorporated, whisk in the shallots, jalapeño and garlic.
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While still warm, toss the lentils with 1/4 cup dressing and garnish with cilantro and scallions. Can be served warm or cold. Yield: about 4 servings.
Note:  If you are cutting back on oil, feel free to substitute water for some of the oil. The dressing will still taste great.