Thanks for the info on lentils. I had no idea there were so many varieties. Yes, I'd love to share recipes! I can't guarantee they will be chef quality, but they are easy to make and taste good. The first one is Lebanese Lentils. I found the recipe a long time ago in a Farm Bureau magazine, which is about as close to a miracle as you can get, because most of their recipes revolve around meat or dairy. This one's a vegan comfort food that you can make even if you're snowed in, because you don't need highly perishable ingredients, just the basics that are usually on hand. Here goes: Lebanese Lentils 2-3/4 cups lentils (dry) 5 cups cold water 1 Tablespoon salt (I prefer sea salt) 5 medium onions (or more, as you like) 3/4 cup olive oil 1 cup rice with 1-1/2 cups more water Wash lentils and soak in cold water overnight or for several hours. Drain and place in a 4 to 6 quart dutch oven. Add 5 cups of water and the salt. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and cover. Simmer gently for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, slice the onions into thin rings or as I prefer, (because it's easier), half rings. Saute the onions in the olive oil until they're translucent. Do not drain the oil. Now add rice and remaining water to the lentils along with half of the onion/olive oil mixture. (I have tried no-name white rice, and also brown rice mixed with wild rice, but Uncle Ben's converted white rice seems to hold up best in this recipe.) Simmer covered for 20 minutes or until the rice is done, stirring as needed to prevent scorching and sticking to the bottom of the pot. Place in serving dish and top with remaining onion/oil mixture. May be served hot or cold--but I like it best hot. This dish freezes well, and can be reheated in the microwave. I like it on a bed of lettuce, with maybe a drizzle of Italian dressing on the uncovered lettuce around the outside edges. By the way, it's true that the lentils get mushy, but they are still so good this way. Sometimes I add peppers or mushrooms to the onions, too. With red lentils, sauteed green peppers and onions look nice as a topping. I've found that meat eaters are surprised because they expect vegetarian food to taste bad. They start out with a tiny taste and brace themselves, and then their faces light up and they say, as if I didn't know already, "It's good!" Of course it's good. I may be vegetarian, but I refuse to eat food that tastes bad.
Lentils are one of the most ancient of cultivated crops, and they’re widely consumed throughout Europe, India, and Africa. They are wonderfully all-purpose, low in fat, high in protein and fiber, and unlike other legumes, they cook quickly and require no soaking. They are a terrific meat substitute for vegetarians in a variety of forms – as in burgers and loaves. Lentils have a mild, earthy flavor, and stand up well against more assertive flavorings.
Puy lentils or French lentils are some of the finest available. While they take a bit longer to cook than brown lentils, they’re worth the extra time because they hold their shape well after cooking. Puy lentils are smaller than brown lentils and they’re a beautiful blue green color. They will darken after cooking and I wouldn’t recommend they be used in a burger or loaf recipe as they cost more than brown lentils and they’re very refined. At one time they were only grown in the volcanic soil of Puy, France, but they are now also grown in Italy and North America, which makes them more affordable.
All lentils are best when simmered gently and shouldn’t be used just for soups. Use them as you would other beans – they make great tacos, for example. All lentils are a wonderful, protein-rich addition to salads or are a delicious side dish to any meal.
Dal (or split lentils) are often sold in Indian markets. They cook down quickly and are best puréed or added to soups.
Before cooking, simply rinse lentils and pick out any stones. Salting the water during cooking will slow the process, so season them just before serving. A delicious lentil dish can be ready in as little as half an hour. An essential pantry item, lentils of all types will last up to a year stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.
Recently during an informal get together, I made a simple stew with puy lentils, garlic and onions which I served over wilted baby spinach and cornbread with a drizzle of olive oil, chopped cilantro a squeeze of fresh lemon, and fresh cracked pepper. It was the easiest meal you can imagine, and turned out to be a great success with my supper guests. Next time you think of passing by lentils at the store, take the leap and grab a bag – you won’t be sorry.
HI Rae, Thanks for writing! There are many varieties of lentils. I know of six. Those include red, brown, black, yellow, white and green. The french green lentils or Puy are one in the same. Usually available in the bulk section of most whole foods markets, Puy lentils are my favorite. If you have a favorite recipe to share, please feel free to post it on the blog. We'd love to hear from you!
What are all the different types of lentils? I'd love to see a list of them. I have only been able to find the brown ones and the red ones. The red are actually orange colored and when cooked turn yellow. Are the blue Puy lentils a separate variety from the French green lentils, or just a different name for the same thing? Thanks for the great cooking tips. I wish you could replace Rachel Ray.