Monday, January 7, 2013

Meatless Monday: The Versatile Lentil

I started off 2013 much the way I began 2012, by cooking up a huge pot of lentil stew. I used the recipe I shared with you last year, courtesy of my friend Kevin who had supplied it along with the reminder that Italians eat lentils on New Year’s Day to bring prosperity in the days ahead. [Couldn't we all use a bit of that?] This time I followed Kevin’s suggestion to use Marsala vs. red table wine and to add a parmesan rind. Once again I went the vegetarian route. Oh, did it turn out well! One of the beauties of this soup is the huge quantity one recipe yields. It is perfect for sharing with a large group, or for eating once or twice and freezing the generous amount of leftovers. 

The lentil (Lens culinaris) has been mentioned in literature for thousands of years. In the Book of Genesis, the hungry Esau trades his birthright to younger twin Jacob for a bowl of lentil soup. In a fairytale by the brothers Grimm, Cinderella’s stepmother scatters her bowl of peas and lentils into the ashes. “A Pot of Red Lentils” is the title of a poem by Peter Pereira which closes with these words, “I want to remember us this way…spoonfuls of hot soup rising to our lips, filling us with what endures.”

Lentils were a subject of an entire episode of Alton Brown’s Good Eats in which he prepared lentils three ways: Soup, Salad and Cookies

Unlike some of the other legumes, lentils cook quickly without needing to be soaked, and they readily absorb the flavors of other ingredients.

Lentils are inexpensive, have a long shelf life, and are packed with nutrientsVery low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, lentils are a good source of protein, iron, phosphorus and copper, and a very good source of dietary fiber, folate and manganese.

Lucky. Delicious. Quick and foolproof. Inexpensive. Nutritious. Reasons enough to give this versatile staple a try?

I often blog on food or food issues on Monday in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”

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