After my blog post regarding Sweet Potato-Lentil stew, I’ve had lentils on the brain. In my opinion, lentils are completely underappreciated in American culture. While of course I’ve tasted these legumes prior to cooking Sweet Potato-Lentil stew, my exposure to them has been limited— mainly in the occasional restaurant dish or whenever my mother has chosen to throw them in a soup. A rather discrete ingredient I must admit.
My first experience cooking with lentils on my own was just this year. I found an unopened package of brown lentils on my kitchen shelf, an unloved remnant of my mother’s care package— my only option for food one frigid evening.
Before cooking, I gave my mom the usual distressed phone call inquiring how I might actually go about cooking something so foreign to me.
I’m embarrassed I had to ask.
Lentils require almost no work. No need to pre-soak these guys. Just pop them in boiling water for 15 to 30 minutes, and voilà!
While lentils are relatively new to me, they are, without doubt, one of the oldest foods in the world.
According to the ancient Greeks and Egyptians, lentils were believed to enrich the mind and heart.
Romans however were not as fond, believing lentils made men lazy. Having studied abroad in Italy, I find this quite comical, for Romans are known for being lethargic and disorderly. After having dealt with this sluggish behavior firsthand, perhaps lentils really did affect the behavior of the Roman people.
I was cooking with brown lentils; however there are also green, red, and yellow lentils. Brown lentils are the least expensive of the variety, however this is not to say that the other types are expensive by any means— lentils generally go for around 75 cents per pound at your local grocer.
Not only are lentils great on a college student budget, but they are also rich in protein, fiber, and iron as well as B vitamins and folate— a true superfood.
It is no wonder India has claimed this food for almost every meal. In an interview with Health.com, Kavita Mehta, founder of Indian Foods Co. said lentils are consumed at least two times a day in “any self-respecting Indian household.” Not surprising when India is the biggest producer of lentils in the world.
While the nutritional benefits of lentils are undeniable— important for any diet, vegetarians especially— their versatility leaves almost no excuse for their neglect.
If you are unsure of what to make with lentils, start with this painless lentil dish, Indian Lentils with Coconut. However, if you think that may be out of your league, lentils paired with steamed vegetables are sure to get you started.