All About Lentils

Whether simmered in a soup, boiled with root vegetables, or roasted and seasoned for a snack, lentils are a busy dieter’s dream ingredient. Unlike dried beans or peas, which require presoaking, lentils are quick to cook. They pair well with lean meat, poultry, or seafood, and they can be prepared with a variety of vegetables to become a vegetarian main course.

Lentils are permitted on all Phases of the South Beach Diet and offer a nutritional boost. High in protein and low in fat, they also provide a good amount of fiber, which helps you feel satisfied on all Phases.

Choose your color. The three main kinds of lentils are brown, green, and red. Mildly flavored brown lentils are widely available, cook quickly, and range from medium brown to a deep black. Choose them for soups, but not for dishes where they need to hold their shape. Green lentils, also called Lentilles du Puy, or French Green Lentils, are smaller and more delicate than other varieties. Red lentils cook the most quickly of all three varieties, turning golden after cooking. Mild and somewhat sweet, they are excellent to use in purées and dals, which are spicy Indian dishes.

Prep with ease. While lentils are easy to prepare for cooking, it is important to rinse them well first and to then pick them over, removing any debris or any that are shriveled. Next, cover the lentils with water or broth, and bring to a full rolling boil. Boil them for just a couple of minutes, then reduce the heat and simmer until tender. Since salt added to the cooking water can toughen the lentils, add it after cooking.

Experiment. Once cooked, lentils are delicious in a variety of dishes. For the simplest breakfast ever, enjoy a plate of cooked lentils topped with a perfectly poached egg. Try some lentils in our Lentil-Spinach Soup, which is seasoned with a little allspice and garnished with a dollop of fat-free yogurt. To see firsthand how lentils can make an attractive “bed” for roasted fish or chicken, try our fabulous Salmon on a Bed of Lentils. For this dish, salmon fillets are laid atop lentils that have been cooked in a Dutch oven with carrots, turnips, and thyme. Once the fish has simmered to perfection, it is served with the lentils and garnished with chopped fresh parsley and lemon wedges. Want a slightly exotic take on lentils? Try our Indian-Spiced Lentils, a savory dish that is perfectly seasoned with curry powder, onion, and garlic.

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