August 8, 2007 3:49 PM


The often over-looked, cheap, and incredibly delicious Lentil: I had my first lentil soup while living here at the CO-OP in Berkeley, and now it's my favorite. So today I decided to do a little research into the lentil.

What are lentils?
They're a legume! Like peas, or beans.

Its Latin name is Lens culinaris

Where are they really from?

Their origins are believed to be in northern Syria and South-West Asia. Lentils were found in Egyptian tombs, dating back to 2,400 BC, but there's archaeological evidence of their cultivation as early as 6,000 BC.

Where do they grow best?
Sandy, nutrient-poor soils in warm climates.

Why do I feel so good after eating them?
Lentils are filled with good-for-you stuff, like anti-oxidants, iron, fiber, and tannins. They have no cholesterol, fat, sodium, or sugars.

Here's a rundown of their nutrition facts:

Nutrition Facts - Serving Size 1/4 cup (35g) (boiled)
Amount Per Serving:
Calories 130
Calories from Fat 5
(% Daily Value)
Total Fat 0.5g (<1%)
Saturated Fat 0g (0%)
Cholesterol 0mg (0%)
Sodium 0mg (0%)
Total Carbohydrates 22g (7%)
Dietary Fiber 11g (44%)
Sugars 0g
Protein 8g
Vitamin A - 0%
Vitamin C - 2%
Calcium - 2%
Iron - 14%

Are they a complete protein?

Nope. They're missing one essential amino acid: methionine. To make a complete protein, combine lentils with grains, eggs, nuts, seeds, or dairy. That's easy to do with a stew.

Delicious Lentil Recipes!

Lentil Snackers

1. Put 1 cup hulled red lentils (red dal) in a saucepan with 2 1/2 cups of salted water. Bring to a boil over high heat and skim off the foam that collects on the surface. Turn the heat to low and simmer until the lentils are yellow and very mushy, 20-30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, put 1/2 cup of fine-grain bulgur (see above) in a sizeable bowl.

3. Stir in 1 1/2 teaspoons of tomato paste (I like to buy the kind that comes in a metal tube) and the same amount of hot red pepper paste (there is a Hungarian brand of "paprika mix" in a jar that I've been using). Turn the heat back up to high and bring this mixture to a boil. Once it's boiling, turn off the heat and pour it over the bulgar. Stir well and set aside for half an hour.

4. Meanwhile, chop one large onion quite fine and saute it in two tablespoons of olive oil. When it begins to get golden brown, add two minced cloves of garlic, 1 1/2 teaspoons of ground cumin, and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Cook about two minutes more.

5. Once the bulgur and lentils have sat for their full half hour, add the contents of the skillet, oil and all. Mix very well, kneading everything together. Add 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh tarragon, a pinch of dried red pepper, and a little lemon juice. Mix again and adjust for salt.

6. Preheat the oven to 350. Use wet hands to pick up what Paula Wolfert calls "plum-size pieces fo the mixture". She seems to have in mind the very small plums sometimes called sugar plums or prune plums. Think something about 3/4 the size of a golf ball. Shape each piece into an oval and arrange these on a baking sheet, preferably one lined with parchment. You only need to leave a tiny bit of space between them. Better cooks than I would make smoother, more beautiful, and more consistant ovals, but mine still taste just fine.

7. Bake for 10-15 minutes. They shouldn't get brown, just form a bit of a firmer crust. Let them cool on the sheet, then transfer to a plate. Make sure they are completely cool, then cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.

Creamy Lentil Soup With Caramelized Onion (Dal Shorva) Recipe

1-1/2 cups red lentils
4 cups chicken broth or water
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 (1-inch) piece ginger root, peeled and chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 cup milk
1-1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 yellow onion, finely shredded
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
Fresh-ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, optional

Pick over the lentils, removing any stones or misshapen or discolored lentils. Rinse thoroughly and place in a nonreactive deep pot. Add the chicken broth or water, turmeric, ginger-and tomatoes bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, 25 minutes until the lentils are soft.

Remove from the heat and, working in batches, puree in a food processor fitted with the metal blade or blender until smooth. Return the soup to the pot, stir in the milk and salt and heat until piping hot. Simmer gently over low heat while you finish the recipe.

In a skillet over high heat, melt the butter. Add the onions and cumin and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes until the onions are brown.

To serve, ladle the soup into warmed bowls and sprinkle generously with black pepper. Divide the onion mixture among the bowls, sprinkle with cilantro, if desired, and serve at once.

Yield: 6 servings

Per serving: 263 calories, 31 percent calories from fat, 13 grams protein, 33 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams total fiber, 9 grams total fat 26 milligrams cholesterol, 623 milligrams sodium.

Information comes from these websites:

Recipes come from these websites:

Photos come from these websites:

Christina | Permalink | Comment on this article | Comments (0)

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