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Red Lentils

Unlike beans, lentils have no sulfur and so produce very little wind.  Lentils have a mild diuretic action, are neutral in thermal properties, and benefit the heart and circulatory systems.  They increase kidney vitality.  Lentils rank just under soy as the top legume protein source.  Lentils help to reduce blood cholesterol, to control insulin and blood sugar, and to lower blood pressure; they contain neutraceuticals that inhibit cancer.  In addition, they help regulate colon function and may help in the prevention of hemorrhoids.  Red lentils are low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium and a good source of thiamin, iron, phosphorus, manganese, dietary fiber, and folate.

STORAGE   Preparing the beans: One cup of dry beans makes four average servings, either in a bean dish or in a soup. Spread out the measured beans so that you can poke through them pick out any extraneous materials, especially any small pebbles. Unless the beans are unusually dirty, they'll need just one rinsing to remove storage dust. Cover the beans in a pot or pan with water, stir them around by hand and pour the water off. Now the beans are ready for soaking or cooking.

PREPARATION   Soaking the beans: Beans absorb water rather reluctantly. Soaking them in water before cooking reduces the cooking time by 30 min. if simmering, and by 5 min. if pressure cooking. Also it seems good to give the beans several hours to get used to the water before the heat is turned on. Have water cover the beans by a couple of inches when soaking starts. The beans can be soaked overnight or during the day, 6-8 hours or longer. In very hot weather keep the soaking beans in a cool place or they will tend to sour.


SIMPLE FROM SCRATCH

Quick and easy Red Lentil main dish

Rinse, then soak the lentils for 8-12 hours or so (overnight) changing the water 3-4 times (which helps remove the foam that may build up otherwise). They will swell up considerably so take this into consideration when figuring amounts.

These lentils will cook quickly even without presoaking but all legumes are more digestible when presoaked with the soaking water discarded. They will foam less too.

Drain, add fresh water to cover the lentils by 2-3 fingerwidths.

Add 1-2 bay leaf, chopped celery, onion, potatoes.

Bring to a boil, then simmer until done, about 20 minutes spooning off any foam that develops.

Add salt, pepper, paprika, pinch of red pepper if desired.

Serve plain or with hot sauce or soy sauce.


Latin American Style Lentils  (Easiest way)

Soak a few hours, then cook in salted water 15-20 mins: so they are cooked through but not mushy. (Personally, I rarely achieve that and then you might need to be Latin! but it tastes good anyway.) Then sauté finely chopped onion in a pan with olive oil, cumin powder, and paprika. Pour the dressing over the drained lentils and enjoy.

They are also excellent baked in a stew in the oven with potatoes, carrots, celeriac, sliced beets, beet greens, etc. Again pre-soak, parboil, then combine with veggies and a few Tblsp water and bake at 350 for about 40 mins.


Red Lentils and Indian Spices

Prepare and put on stove same as above.  As lentils are cooking, Stir fry in ghee or olive oil: chopped onions, garlic. Add crushed cumin and coriander seeds (or ground cumin and coriander), and turmeric.

Add to lentils while they are still cooking, along with grated ginger, salt and pepper.


Red Lentils with Coconut Milk
adapted from The Best International Recipe

SPICES
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1/8 tsp. ground cardamom
1/8 tsp. ground red pepper flakes (I leave this out because the kids don’t like it spicy, but you can go on right ahead and put it in if you want to.)

LENTILS
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, minced
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
3 1/2 cups water
1 cup coconut milk (don’t use the light kind)
1 1/4 cups red lentils
1 lb. plum tomatoes (about 3 tomatoes), cored, seeded, and chopped
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
3/4 to 1 cup spinach leaves
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all the spices and sauté in oil until fragrant. Add onions and cook until soft. Add garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant. Stir in water, coconut milk, and lentils. Bring to a boil and simmer until the lentils resemble a coarse puree (about 25 minutes). I add the spinach 5 minutes before the lentils are done. Stir in tomatoes and cilantro and season with salt and pepper.

I don’t always have fresh tomatoes and fresh cilantro on hand. I’ve substituted canned tomatoes and omitted the cilantro entirely, and it still comes out well. You can also make this without coconut milk. Just add one more cup of water. It won’t be as creamy, but it’s still good.

This freezes well so it’s good for emergency meals. It also does well in The Boy’s insulated lunch container. The teachers might stare at his lunch, but they do that all the time anyway. It doesn’t get the gasps like eel sushi but definitely a few curious sniffs.

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