Monday, April 27, 2009
Lentils, they're not just for Lent
Lentils are classified as a legume because they come from a plant that has a seed-pod that splits when ripe.
The same goes for peanuts, beans, peas, and soybeans. Lentils pack a powerful dietary punch because they are a rich source of fiber, protein, and B-vitamins, and are low in fat, help lower cholesterol, and are heart-healthy.
It doesn't get any better than this -- or does it?
Lentils are inexpensive, have a long shelf-life, are easy to cook - and taste good! One of the first cultivated foods, lentil seeds were found at archaeological sites in the Middle East dating back some 8,000 years.
It's no wonder lentils are a Middle Eastern and Mediterranean favorite. They come in a variety of colors, brown, green, black, yellow, and red-orange. When cooked with seasonings and other ingredients, the lentils absorb those flavors which intensify the recipe's overall taste.
Here's another reason to love lentils - they don't have to be soaked overnight. They're ready to use, anytime! Well, that is after you rinse the dried lentils, spread them out on a platter or work surface of a contrasting color ,and check for any small stones or other debris.
Once you've checked, you're ready to cook. Lentils are sold dried, and come whole or split in half. They are pre-packaged or sold in bulk-bins. When buying in bulk, be sure to check for signs of insects or moisture. If you see either, don't buy it.
More good news: Lentils come in cans, too. They're cooked & ready to use; just drain and rinse.
The nutritional value of canned lentils is retained, unlike canned vegetables. Lentils can be stored for up to a year in a tightly covered container, in a cool, dark storage area.
Cooked lentils keep for about 3 days in the refrigerator. Always, cover, label and date foods in your frig.; it eliminates the mystery of what's in those left-over containers.