News and Notes from The Johnson Center

Family and Food:  Another SuperFood - The Lucky Lentil

JCCHD | Wed, June 06, 2012 | [Family and Food][Healthcare]

Lentils of all shapes and sizesLentils are a tiny round legume.  They come in many colors and sizes – yellow, red, green, and brown lentils are all easy to find in grocery stores. 

Why add these to your diet?  They are rich in fiber, which helps manage blood sugar as well as regulate the gastrointestinal system.  They contain significant protein – second only to soybeans, of all legumes. They are a good source of many vitamins and minerals; vitamins such as thiamin, B6, and folate, and minerals such as potassium, magnesium, molybdenum, manganese and iron, all of which support healthy cellular function.  (In fact, lentils contain twice the amount of iron found in other legume sources.)

Lentils have been a source of nourishment for thousands of years. Thought to have originated in Asia, lentils might have been around as early as 6000 BC. Evidence of their consumption and cultivation has been found in Egyptian tombs as old as 2400 BC. They are also mentioned in the Bible, and have been found in the Middle East, dating back to around 8000 BCE. Over time, the use of lentils spread to countries throughout the world.

In Italy, lentils represent luck, because of their green color and coin-like shape. On New Year’s Eve (just after midnight), they are consumed in a dish called Sausage con Lenticchie, consisting of sausages and green lentils, to provide wealth and good fortune for the coming year. The tradition is also observed in Brazil, where the first meal of the New Year is typically lentil soup or lentils and rice. 

Lentils can be purchased in dried or canned form, which differ only slightly in terms of nutritional value. The one caution is that canned versions often contain additional salt and additives. Additionally, lentils which are packaged in cans lined with bisphenol A, or BPA may be harmful to your health.

Before cooking, lentils should be inspected for moisture or insect damage, and also cracks. They should be stored in a cool, dark place, in an airtight container. If stored properly, they will keep for up to 12 months. After cooking, lentils can be kept refrigerated in an airtight container for 3 days.

To prepare lentils:
- Spread them out, and remove small stones or debris
- Rinse lentils with cool water, using a strainer
- Boil water, using three cups of liquid for each cup of lentils.
- Add lentils, and return water to a boil
- Simmer for 30 minutes (red ones may take only 20 minutes)

Indian Lentils With Coconut
Prep: 5 minutes; Cook: 45 minutes.

Yield: 10 servings (serving size: ½ cup)

• 1 teaspoon olive oil
• 1 cup chopped onion
• 4 cups water
• 1 pound dried small red lentils, washed and picked over
• 1 (13.5-ounce) can light coconut milk
• 1 bay leaf
• 1 teaspoon salt
• ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion; sauté 5 minutes or until just beginning to brown. Stir in the water, lentils, coconut milk, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, 40 minutes or until the lentils are soft.
2. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Then stir in salt and pepper.

From Mark Bittman’s The Best Recipes in the World

French Lentils with Roasted Roots, Carmelized Onions and Thyme

• 1 rutabaga, peeled and diced
• 1 celeriac, peeled and diced
• 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• ¾ cup dry French lentils
• 3 cups vegetable stock or water
• Sea salt
• 4 tablespoons lemon juice
• 1 large red onion, diced
• 4 cups thinly sliced mushrooms
• 1 tablespoon mirin
• 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, minced
• Chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place rutabaga and celeriac in 8 x 8-inch baking dish, drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and roast 20 minutes. Remove from oven and toss. Return to oven and roast an additional 20 minutes or until soft. Remove from oven and set aside.

While vegetables are roasting, rinse lentils and place in pot with vegetable stock and a pinch of salt. Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until just tender (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat and drain well. Toss with 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon lemon juice and set aside.

In large skillet over medium heat, sauté onion in remaining tablespoon olive oil until it starts to brown(5-7 minutes). Add mushrooms and mirin and continue sautéing. Add remaining 3 tablespoons lemon juice 1 tablespoon at a time to deglaze pan and caramelize vegetables. Add thyme and sauté 2 minutes longer, for a total sauté time of 12-14 minutes. Fold in lentils and roasted vegetables and sauté to heat through. Season to taste with salt, toss with parsley and serve.

Recipe from Clean Start by Terry Walters/Sterling Epicure, 2011.

Lentil DipCurried Lentil Dip

• 1 cup red lentils
• 2 ½ cups water
• 1 tablespoon oil
• 1 cup diced onions
• 1 ½ cups peeled, cored, and diced apples
• 3 garlic cloves, minced
• ¼ cup raisins
• 1 teaspoon curry powder
• 1 teaspoon garam masala (optional)
• 1/4 cup coconut milk
• 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
• ½ teaspoon salt

In a medium saucepan, bring the lentils and water to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the lentils are soft and most of the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet and sauté the onions, apples, and garlic with a dash of salt for about 5 minutes on medium heat. Add the raisins, curry powder, and the garam masala, if using, and continue to sauté for 10 minutes, until tender.

In a food processor or blender, pureé the cooked lentils and sautéed onion mix with the coconut milk and lemon juice. Add the salt and adjust to taste.

Serve at room temp or chilled.

Sausage con Lenticchie
(Lentil Soup with Italian Sausage)

• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 pound fully cooked hot Italian sausage, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
• 1 large onion, chopped (about 3 cups)
• 2 large carrots, peeled, chopped (about 1 ¾ cups)
• 2 large parsnips, peeled, chopped (about 1 ¾ cups)
• 2 large celery stalks, chopped about 1 cup
• 2 ½ teaspoons dried Italian seasoning blend
• 1 pound brown lentils (about 2 ⅓ cups)
• 3 quarts (or more) low-salt chicken broth
• 1 5-ounce package baby spinach leaves


Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add sausage and cook until browned, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer sausage to bowl. Add onion, carrots, parsnips, celery, and Italian seasoning blend to drippings in pot; cook until onion is translucent and vegetables begin to soften, stirring often, 7 to 8 minutes. Add lentils; stir to coat. Add 3 quarts broth. Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium and simmer until lentils are tender, stirring occasionally and adding more broth by ¼ cupfuls if soup is too thick, 20 minutes.

Add sausage to soup and simmer until vegetables are tender and flavors blend, 10 to 12 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in spinach. Cook until spinach is wilted, about 3 minutes.

Bon Appétit | January 2010
by The Bon Appétit Test Kitchen

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