One of the worlds superfoods: Lentils
VAIL, Colorado The Bible tells the story of brothers Jacob and Esau in the Book of Genesis. Esau, the firstborn, sells his birthright to Jacob for some lentil stew. The Egyptians, the ancient Romans and Hebrews commonly ate lentils and evidence of this domesticated crop dates to around 8,000 B.C. in what is now northern Syria.In modern times, lentils are grown worldwide, with the majority of the harvest in India. The population is mainly vegetarian there and roughly half of the worlds lentils are consumed. Part of the legume family, today more than 50 different varieties are grown.Its no wonder that lentils are a staple in vegetarian diets. This superfood is packed with protein and cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber, as well as about twice as much iron as other legumes. Beyond their nutritional value, the price of lentils alone would categorize them as a superfood. A recent New York Times article claimed if you have lentils, you have dinner. At less than a dollar a pound, lentils are the most economic protein you can buy.All these virtues make lentils worth a try, but how do they taste? Slightly nutty, with a chewy texture, said Jeremy Kittelson, executive chef at Restaurant Avondale. They cook quickly in either water or other flavorful liquid like stock or wine. You can enjoy them plain or spiced with herbs, onions, garlic or other vegetables.Brown lentils are the most common, but other varieties offer new colors and textures. French green lentils, Spanish pardinas, black, orange, and white lentils all have unique flavor profiles. They vary in cooking times, so follow your recipes instructions and taste as you go to get your preferred consistency, not too firm or too soft, Kittelson said. Here he shares recipes using lentils as a side dish with fish or as an easy but hearty vegetarian soup.
1 onion, diced2 stalks celery, diced1 carrot, diced1 cup lentils3 cups chicken stock1/2 cup sherry vinegar3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil2 Tablespoons chopped parsley1 Tablespoons chopped chivesCombine first five ingredients in a saucepot and simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes or until lentils have reached your desired texture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Whisk sherry vinegar and olive oil together. Mix with lentils. Add parsley and chives. Serves 4 as a side dish.
3 Tabelspoons extra virgin olive oil2 cups chopped onions1 cup chopped celery stalks 1 cup chopped carrots2 garlic cloves, chopped2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves1 bay leaf4 cups (or more) vegetable broth 1 1/4 cup lentils, rinsed and drained1 14 1/2 ounce can diced tomatoes in juicebalsamic vinegar (optional)chopped celery leaves (for garnish)Heat oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium high heat. Add onions, celery, carrots, and garlic. Saute until vegetables start to soften. Add thyme and cook another minute. Add 4 cups broth, lentils, tomatoes and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until lentils are tender, about 35 minutes, checking for desired consistency. Transfer 2 cups of mostly solids to blender and puree, add back to soup. If desired, thin with more broth. Season with salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar. Ladle into bowls and garnish with celery leaves. Serves 6.Sue Barham is the marketing director for Restaurant Avondale and Larkspur Restaurant. Avondale recently opened in The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa in Avon. The restaurant features a West Coast inspired, seasonal menu and the chefs use time-honored cooking methods, such as slow roasting and braising, to create simple dishes rich in flavor. The wine program focuses on small production wines to compliment the straightforward cuisine. For more information visit http://www.avondalerestaurant.com.