Lentils are nutritious little packages of culinary versatility. A ½ cup of cooked lentils contains 9g protein, 8g fiber, plenty of B vitamins and minerals including zinc, iron, manganese, and magnesium: a powerhouse of nutrition. Unlike other dried legumes, they cook quickly and are easy to prepare for weeknight dinners. The United Nations has declared 2016 as the Year of the Pulses to encourage consumption of dried legumes like lentils, peas and beans. An interesting infographic on pulses from the UN can be found here.
Lentils are an ancient crop. Archaeological evidence suggests humans have been growing lentils over 10,000 years. Lentils are also a local crop: the Palouse region in eastern Washington and northern Idaho is the self-declared pea and lentil capital of the world (see their website for more recipes and information) . Canada and India actually grow more lentils but in the US, the Palouse reigns supreme. There are several kinds of lentils and they are usually identified by color (red, brown, black). All are delicious and nutritious. Most grocery stores will have the best selection of lentils in the bulk section. “French” lentils work well for the following salad because they hold their shape well and don’t get mushy.
- 1 cup lentils
- Celery and/or Cucumber
- 6 oz feta cheese, crumbled
- Red pepper, either fresh or roasted
- Red onion diced (maybe ¼ of a large red onion)
- 3 Lemons, juiced
- Parsley, minced
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1-2 garlic cloves, crushed or minced fine
- Salt and fresh ground pepper
Cook lentils until just tender (I like to cook lentil like pasta - in an excess volume of water). This usually takes about 12 minutes but will depend on the age and type of lentil. Drain and allow to cool briefly.
Salt red onion and soak in lemon juice for a few minutes. Combine with warm lentils.
Dice celery and/or cucumber as well as red pepper and toss with lentils
Add feta cheese, olive oil, minced parsley, garlic and the rest of the lemon juice. Salt and pepper to taste.
Refrigerate a few hours and serve cold.
Fresh tomatoes, if available, make a nice addition to this salad. Olives can also be added as well as marinated artichokes.