Stefanie Angstadt – Thought for Food | April 22, 2015
Lentils are one of those great foods that are healthy and filling. As someone who eats a little meat, sometimes, depending on where it’s from, I have come to depend on lentils for a source of protein, flavor and heartiness in my cooking.
Lentils are one of the earliest foods known to humans, and perhaps they’ve stuck around because of their outstanding health benefits. They contain cholesterol-lowering fiber, help manage blood-sugar levels, and provide high amounts of protein and important minerals including B-vitamins — all with virtually no fat.
Perhaps the best feature of lentils is their texture. Their tiny round shape provides a chewy element to a soup, salad or veggie burger. The ideal texture comes from the variety of lentil you decide to cook with, and I’ve come to appreciate certain types for this particular reason. The black lentils, also known as beluga, and the green lentils, known as French lentils, are my preferred varieties because they retain a firmer, chewier texture rather than softening entirely like some of the others.
The wonderful versatility in lentils comes from the fact that they not only have a nutty, earthy flavor on their own, but they also absorb the flavors of the foods and seasonings they are cooked with. I cook them in vegetable stock alongside carrots, onions, garlic and dried chiles. At this point, I may turn them into a hearty stew by adding crushed tomatoes, cumin and other spices. Or, I may strain them out of the stock and add them to salads. Their flavor can be dressed up or down depending on their ultimate use.
In their dried form, which is typically how they are bought, lentils are one of the few legumes that do not need to be soaked in advance. This means they can be cooked and ready to enjoy in under an hour — another nice feature of this powerful ingredient.
Cooking them is simple. In a large pot, combine 2 cups of lentils with 6 cups of water, 2 smashed garlic cloves and a bay leaf. Bring it to a boil over high heat, then reduce it to low heat and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. I have read that lentils added to already boiling water are easier to digest than those brought to a boil with water, so that may be something to note for people newly adding lentils to their diet.
Stefanie Angstadt is a blogger, farmer and food enthusiast who grew up in New Jersey To read Stefanie Angstadt’s blog, visit www.happybeets.com.