“Lentils are friendly—the Miss Congeniality of the bean world.” – Laurie Colwin, American author
I admit it. It wasn’t that long ago when I finally ate my first lentil on purpose. I took the easy way out of trying a new food and simply accepted as true the opinions of the anti-lentil crowd instead of bravely venturing forth to actually taste the tiny legume myself. During a business trip to France, my husband (a complainer of lentil texture) ate lentil soup as well as a few other interesting things, and found himself forced to admit that those particular French lentils, prepared in that way, were quite good. That does not mean he's ready to eat lentils cooked by me yet. So I'll have to figure out just what they did to those lentils in France that made their texture so superior. As my experimentation with lentils will have to be solo, I'll need a variety of recipes that can be reduced to make very small servings as well as some more information on lentils.
My grocery store sells bags containing a sort of greenish/brownish/grayish lentil and that is simply labeled Lentils, with no explanation whatsoever as to what kind. Were they French? I rather doubt it. A serious lentil newbie like me needed much remedial help, and I began my study of lentils with this article on how to choose and store lentils from those great researchers of all sorts of things at About.com. I was simply mind-boggled at all the lovely lentil types and colors. Why, then, are the lentils in my store only one color when there are so many pretty lentils to be found?
It turns out that each type of lentil has a unique flavor, texture, and best use. Some (brown and green) hold their shape and are good as a side or main dish; others (red, yellow, and orange) dissolve and are more suited to thicken a soup or stew. Pretty olive green French lentils cook up more firmly than others. Quick cooking lentils don’t require pre-soaking, are a terrific source of iron and other vitamins, and so loaded with fiber they are satisfactorily filling - a fine thing indeed for someone who wants to feel satiated on fewer calories. I really needed to taste these things but needed a good recipe. About.com’s Barbecued Lentils looks like an interesting change of pace from the usual baked beans and should please even those that are dubious of lentils.
So I put out the call for lentil recipes to my friends at Calorie Count that eat such things. They always amaze me with the quality of their recipes which meant that the decision of which to try first would be tough. I decided to try Meganr’s Lentil’s with Red Bell Pepper and Feta as it was so simple and made with things I usually have on hand (well, except for the lentils). Brown and green lentils which keep their shape pretty well are the lentils of choice for Meganr's recipe. The bag in the store contained a sort of brownish/green lentil so I crossed my fingers that they might be the right type and cooked.
Meganr’s Lentils with Red Bell Pepper and Feta was wonderfully warm and tasty. I did not find the texture odd nor was the flavor in any way disconcerting as the anti-lentil crowd claimed. I took the left overs in to work the next day and my colleague and I had it cold at lunch; it was fantastic on day two as well!
Marg’s Curried Lentil Soup is a tasty and easy dish to fix. Try it today!
Crazypotato98’s Lentil and Sausage Stew will please the meat eaters in your family and get some good healthy lentils and vegetables in them!
Polo’s Indian Lentil Soup is another great recipe I can't wait to try that was sent to me by one of the 2.7 million Calorie Count members!
If your store just carries the limited choice of pre-bagged unidentified lentils, look for a store that sells in bulk. The lentils will not only be less expensive, but you should find a variety to choose from. I recently discovered that my store has orange lentils in the bulk food aisle and am now looking for a recipe that will be perfect for them!
Even if you think you don't like lentils make an effort to try a few different types until you find the one you love. Go to your recipe collection and store armed with knowledge about what type is most likely to appeal to you, which is best for your recipe, and get cooking!
Are you new to lentils like me or are you an old pro? What is your favorite recipe? Have you tried some of the interesting and differently colored lentils? Do you buy them in bulk or in bags? If any of you are from France, can you share your recipe for lentil soup? If your recipes are short, you can list them here, if lengthy, please send them to me here.
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