In Love with Lentils
Lentils have so much going for them. They cook fairly quickly, they store well and they’re good for you. But I never think of making anything with this versatile legume.
The last lentil recipe I cooked was Mejadra, a traditional Arab comfort food of rice, lentils and spices from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi's Jerusalem: A Cookbook. Part of the deliciousness in that recipe comes from frying sliced onions until they turn into aromatic, caramelized strings that are stirred into the dish and also sprinkled on top. It’s not a difficult recipe, but not one that I’d whip up on the spur of the moment, when I’m hungry for dinner.
At a culinary conference in Chicago recently, I encountered folks from Canadian Lentils and sampled a simple and delicious salad that that’s perfect for Special Fork’s prep criteria, requiring just 10 minutes of prep time and 20 minutes to cook. This healthy salad can be a main dish or a side. The spinach and tomatoes lighten the dense texture of the lentils and add freshness to the dish.
I also learned some interesting facts about lentils from Canadian Lentils, such as:
- A hundred grams of uncooked lentils provide your daily fiber needs.
- Lentils are gluten-free.
- A 3/4 cup serving of lentils contribute about 13 grams of protein.
- Just 100 grams of split red lentils (uncooked) has more potassium than a large banana.
- Out of all plant-based foods, lentils contain the most folate, an important vitamin for all, but especially for women of child-bearing age, to prevent certain types of birth defects.
- Lentils, like other legumes, are environmentally friendly; the plants return nitrogen back to the soil, increasing soil health.
Marinated Lentil Salad with Spinach and Feta
1-1/2 cups green lentils
1 garlic clove, peeled
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
2 cups thinly sliced baby spinach
1 to 2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- Place the lentils and garlic in a medium saucepan and add enough water to cover by an inch or two. Bring to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, until tender, adding more hot water if needed to keep lentils covered. Drain lentils well and transfer to a bowl, discarding the garlic. While the lentils are still warm, add the oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss and set aside to cool.
- Add the spinach, tomatoes, and feta and toss to combine. Serve immediately or refrigerate until needed.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Adapted from a recipe from Canadian Lentils
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