- They're versatile and go with (take on) a variety of flavors.
- As dried legumes go, they cook fairly quickly (10-20 minutes without having to soak overnight like a lot of beans...which is why I buy canned beans, but I digress).
- They are a great source of dietary fiber, folate, and manganese, and a good source of protein, iron, phosphorus, and copper, according to this website.
- They're low calorie, low fat, and low sodium.
- And if all that doesn't impress you, they're ridiculously cheap. How much do you think I paid for a bag that contained 13 servings? A whopping 88 cents. That's less than 7 cents per serving!
So I'm going to like them.
If you are new to lentils like I am, let me suggest some resources to you.
- Naturally Ella has an exceptional section on bulk bin ingredients, including a page each for red, brown, and green lentils. She talks about what kinds of dishes each one is good for, how to prepare them, and offers recipes for each kind.
- Pinch of Yum has a bit of a love affair with lentils, so she's posting yummy-sounding lentil recipes all the time. In fact, around the time that I was deciding to incorporate lentils into my diet this year, she wrote this post on her favorite lentil recipes.
- If you become friends with my friend Amber, she might just let you borrow her awesome Pea and Lentil Cookbook that she got when she lived in the lentil capital of the world.
I tried out this Red Lentil Curry recipe, and it was okay, though not my favorite dish ever. I've come to realize that I don't care for tomato-based curries as much as non-tomatoey curries. Also I undercooked the lentils because I was too afraid of overcooking them. But if you like curry with tomatoes, and if you cook your lentils long enough, this could be a good recipe for you.
Amber assures me that it's actually pretty hard to overcook lentils. Noted!
This recipe calls for several spices that aren't staples in many American kitchens. If you have to buy all the spices specially for this dish, it could be pretty pricey, but if you accumulate spices bit by bit like I do, you may already have many of them. I'm happy to report that I didn't have to buy ANY spices especially for this recipe!
Red Curry Lentils
Ever-so-slightly adapted from Pinch of Yum
Yield: 6 servings
1-1/2 cups brown lentils, rinsed and picked over
1/2 large onion, diced
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. red curry paste
1/2 Tbsp. garam masala
1 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. minced ginger
A few good shakes of cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)
1 (14-oz.) can tomato puree
1/4 to 1/2 cup coconut milk
Cilantro for garnishing
Cooked rice for serving
Cook the lentils according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute for a few minutes until fragrant and golden. Add all the spices (curry paste, garam masala, curry powder, turmeric, cayenne, sugar, garlic, ginger) and stir fry for 1-2 minutes. Add the tomato sauce; stir and simmer until smooth.
Add the lentils and the coconut milk. Stir to combine and simmer for another 15-20 minutes (the longer, the better)! Serve over rice and garnish with cilantro.
Like I said, not my favorite, but I don't think it's a bad recipe--just didn't hit my sweet spot. I left out the cayenne, but my friend Lauren added cayenne to her plate. I'd recommend an aromatic rice like jasmine or basmati, possibly even cooked with some coconut milk. Don't leave out the cilantro.