I LOVE lentils! They are a nutrilicious little legume that deserves a post all to itself (actually 2, here)!
I love them in soups and salads and all the places one is used to loving them–they are delicious in their own right–but I also love them because they are so versatile. What I mean is, lentils are very “humble” and blend unobtrusively with other flavors without bringing attention to them. Now, that’s a pretty unique, culinary attribute and one I have taken full advantage of, as those of you who know me well can attest to! In fact, I would consider them one of my greatest sources of inspiration!
I also LOVE lentils because, nutritionally, they are truly outstanding (I mean that quite literally: click here to find out more about the health benefits of lentils). They are low in calories; they are an excellent source of high-quality plant protein; an outstanding source of fiber; rich in minerals, including calcium, potassium, and magnesium and a good source of B vitamins, especially folate.
That’s why I find a million ways to hide them everywhere in my cooking and baking!
OK, so I am exaggerating a bit, but really, this week, I am featuring old favorites and brand new recipes that use lentils in ways that not only improve the nutrition of the dish they are in, but also heighten its texture and creaminess, and as you’ll see, I have hidden them in unusual places!
Brown lentils are the most common variety and you’ll find them easily in your supermarket. So, these can be your go-to lentils. They can replace any of the others. These are great in soups especially, because they get soft and blend beautifully with vegetables in a nice broth.
My Moroccan Lentil & Chickpea Soup uses either brown or red lentils–either one works as long as they are added no more than 20 minutes before the end of cooking, so they don’t get too mushy.
Green lentils (They are more brown than green but OK!) are also referred to as Puy lentils, and also called French Green lentils. You will most likely find these in the health section of your supermarket.
These little green lentils have a stronger “nutty” flavor to them. They are great for salads because they hold their shape and stay perfectly “al dente” even after cooking. They need more time to cook than the brown lentils, so allow for that. My French Lentil and Sweet Potato Salad uses these–YUM! You will also love my Carrot Quinoa Lentils: The combination of carrots and curry is sweet and tangy and the carrot juice thickens while cooking and gives it a slight creaminess!
Red lentils are the sweetest of them all! They are perfect for soups because they cook faster, tend to break down, and can get a little mushy, which is perfect to achieve a creamy texture in soup. You may find these in the health section of your supermarket and definitely at a health food store.
I use red lentils in my Creamy Red Lentil Squash Soup to create a rich thickness that is perfect for this delicious creamy soup! More surprisingly, I hide them as well in my Power Strawberry Banana Milkshake! AMAZING! You won’t know there are there, I promise!
Black Beluga lentils are my favorite of all!! These are tiny little black lentils that are much denser than the other varieties. You can find these in health food stores, both dry and canned (here is a brand I like) and, believe it or not, I found out that Target carries them too! I posted them here for you so you can find them easily.
I cook and grind these black lentils and hide them inside my Turkey Mushroom Burgers, my Mini BBQ Turkey Burgers and my Turkey Meatballs. Not only do they increase the nutritional value of these recipes, but they actually add that dark-meaty-beefy-rich moistness to the ground turkey, which can be quite dry otherwise!
Last year, I created this Power Chocolate Banana milkshake for my then 15-year old old son who is still growing at a phenomenal rate (he is now 6’1!). If you too have a growing teenager in the house, you have to check it out!
Then, come my desserts hiding puréed black lentils!
My Flourless Chocolate Cake, where I use cooked ground black lentils instead of the flour. The result? This outrageously delicious gluten-free cake that is dark and creamy, slightly molten in the center and just tastes as decadent as it looks. I can’t wait for you to try it!
I just created 2 brand new recipes with Black lentils that even I can’t believe I dared (or even thought) to create:
One is my Silky Chocolate Pudding–AMAZING! Why? …Because although it tastes luscious and creamy enough to be an elegant dessert, I actually created it as a quick-no-cook-just mix-in-your-blender after-school power snack for the kids!
Another wonderful dessert is my Baked Chocolate Custard, OH MY!! These remind me of French “Petits Pots de Crème au Chocolat” classically baked in individual little porcelain ramekins! Typically, these petits Pots are made with dark chocolate, heavy cream, egg yolks and sugar. Of course I have revamped them, Cuisinicity style, while keeping their rich creamy texture and luscious flavor. I have done away with the heavy cream, the eggs and…even the sugar!! You have to see for yourself how I did it…and even more importantly taste for yourself!
So, that’s it for now-What a beautiful note to end on, right?
But, have no worries, I will continue to take advantage of the goodness of lentils and create more of those wonderful recipes because they really epitomize what Cuisinicity is all about: Loving Food that loves you back! I wrote more about it here!
So, be sure to check out periodically my “Legumes” glossary page on the left side bar of Cuisinicity, so you can find my latest creations in all those unusual places you’d never suspect this outstanding little legume to hide!