by Marie Oser
As temperatures descend into winter, a warm pot of soup cooking on the stove is a warm and wonderful welcome home.
Inexpensive, tasty and plentiful, this ancient protein is believed to have originated in Asia. Thought to be one of the first agricultural crops, archeologists have found evidence that lentils were eaten as much as 13,000 years ago.
Lentils are rich in protein and fiber, much of which is heart-healthy soluble fiber, very low in fat and packed with iron, folate, phosphorus and potassium. All of which makes lentils a healthful alternative for meat-eaters.
Lentils are wonderful in stews, salads and homemade veggie burgers. There are many varieties of lentils with differing characteristics, the most common being brown, green and red.
Brown Lentils - The most common, brown lentils are widely available at supermarkets, health food stores and independent groceries. Brown lentils cook in 20 to 30 minutes, hold their shape well and have a mild, earthy flavor best suited for soups, stews, vegetarian chili and veggie burgers.
Green Lentils - Sometimes called French Green Lentils (lentilles du Puy), these full-bodied, peppery flavored lentils cook in 45 minutes. Ranging from pale green to somewhat mottled greenish brown, green lentils can be found in specialty stores, hold their shape well and are a popular choice for salads.
Red Lentils - Red lentils are tiny and cook in 30 minutes, turning golden in color to an almost pureed consistency. Tender and mild, red lentils are a common ingredient in Middle Eastern and Eastern European cooking and are called Masoor Dal in India. Red lentils are well suited for soups, spreads, curries and side dishes.
Available throughout the year, lentils are very nutritious and readily absorb the flavors of foods and seasonings in the dish. Cooked lentils have a thick, chewy texture and hearty flavor that makes them a versatile ingredient in a variety of dishes.
Like other dried legumes, lentils have an indefinite shelf life, however, lentils need no pre-soaking and cook quickly. Called pulses in England, lentils are classified as legumes, because like beans and peas, they grow in pods.
Look for lentils that are dry, firm and clean with fairly uniform color. Simply rinse thoroughly in cold water and sort before adding to any recipe.
Lentil Soup with Kale and Carrots
This tasty soup is rich in protein, fiber and antioxidants and contains just 1 gram of fat per serving. 12 Servings
1 Tablespoon olive oil 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper 4 cloves garlic, minced 1 large onion, chopped 1/2 large red bell pepper, chopped 1 1/4 cups carrots, large dice 1 1/4 cups brown lentils, rinsed and sorted 8 1/2 cups water 1 bunch kale, torn into pieces 1 (14.5 oz.) can Mexican Stewed Tomatoes 1 Tablespoon Braggs Aminos 2 teaspoons Madras curry powder 1 teaspoon turmeric 1/2 teaspoon sea salt 1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast 1 Tablespoon tamari
Heat oil and crushed red pepper in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium high heat, 1 minute. Add garlic, onion, bell pepper and carrots. Sauté mixture 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add lentils, stir to mix thoroughly and add water immediately. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add torn kale and cook for 10 minutes, or until kale has softened. Using clean kitchen scissors, cut up stewed tomatoes, while still in the can and then add to the pot. Add curry powder (I like hot), turmeric, salt, nutritional yeast and tamari. Simmer soup for 15 minutes or until ready to serve. Refrigerate. Soup freezes well.
Lentil Soup with Kale and Carrots Nutrition Analysis: per 2 cup serving Calories 123, Protein 8g, Carbohydrate 22g, Fiber 5g, Fat 1g, Cholesterol 0mg, Calcium 52mg, Sodium 344mg Eat this! Lentils, a prehistoric foodstuff, Leah A. Zeldes, Dining Chicago. Chicago's Restaurant & Entertainment Guide February, 2011
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