Lentils have been around forever — they are one of the oldest domesticated crops and have turned up in archaeological digs. Even in ancient times, they had the stigma of being a poor person’s food. They are mainly produced in Canada (who knew!?) and while I was personally introduced to them in Indian cuisine, I think it is fair to say that with the rise of healthy eating and increasing popularity of the legume, lentils have become more loved and appreciated over the past few years.
After making Bon Appetit’s Marinated Lentils with Lemony Broccolini and Feta this week, I posed the question to friends: What’s your favorite use for lentils? The results of the Instagram survey including the following:
I was surprised that no one mentioned lentils in salads, my personal favorite. I was first introduced to lentil salads by former-Pittsburgh food bloggers Paul and Rebecca Shelter Fast of The Hungry Hounds. Their recipe — involving slow cooking lentils with fresh herbs, a zingy vinaigrette, and tons of toppings included roasted squash, pumpkin seeds, goat cheese, and shallots — made me realize that lentils could be super flavorful and last for days while actually getting better over time.
Sarah McAlee of Brothmonger agrees. “My all time favorite recipe that I make all the time and I tell everyone to make is the "just-keeps-getting-better lentil salad" from Bon Appetit. It is AMAZING. Highly, highly recommend.”
McAlee is known for her soups and has featured lentils several times. “I definitely use them a lot in soups. I have used lentils in my vegan stuffed pepper soup, a thai curry, and just a beautiful lentil soup featuring French green lentils, all that I slung via brothmonger. They are great to bulk up a soup, use as a meat substitute, or be the star of the dish. Some other ways that I like to use them is in lentil loaf (which my boyfriend is obsessed with), curry or dal, stuffed peppers, and my absolute favorite way, salads.”
McAlee keeps a variety of lentils on hand including green lentils, French green lentils, and red lentils. “My favorite variety are French green lentils. They are so beautiful, they're almost black. They are small and firm which makes them very resilient and less susceptible to overcooking. Perfect for soup and salad. I find that they tend to be a little more expensive than their brothers and sisters but definitely worth it. I also can't usually find them anywhere other than Whole Foods.”
The trick to preparing good lentils? “... just to pay attention,” says McAlee. “Definitely cook them in heavily salted water at medium to low temperature and just keep checking on them and tasting them for the texture you want whether it be firm for salad or mushier for a curry or dal or stew or loaf or meatball (and on and on).”
• Marinated Lentils with Lemony Broccolini and Feta from Bon Appetit