5 lb bag $15.50
25 lb sack $77.50
Although red lentils have long been a staple of Indian cuisine, the tiny legumes have a broad geographic scope. Lentils of all colors nourished Egyptians, Mesopotamians, Romans and Greeks of bygone millennia. Modern Italians consider them a New Year’s treat, because eating those little nuggets of protein supposedly ushers in a year of prosperity. One reason for the legume’s widespread popularity is its tolerance for all sorts of soil conditions and climates. Another is the high nutritional value: red lentils are rich in protein and have significant amounts of Vitamin B and such essential minerals as iron, magnesium and zinc.
“Earthy” and “nutty” are adjectives commonly applied to lentils. The red variety merits one additional taste descriptor: lightly sweet. That quality lends a lovely counterpoint to savory flavors – such as those found in Indian dhal, blending red lentils, fried onion, garlic, tomato and such spices as ginger, turmeric and/or chili powder. Although all lentils cook up relatively quickly, the red ones are the speediest. Ten minutes in boiling water and they’re done. While French green lentils will maintain their al dente texture in long-simmered soups, the red variety softens with longer cooking times. As a result, red lentils often serve as thickening agents for stews, casseroles and curries. Chefs also value red lentils for their visual appeal. That cheerful orange-red color perks up the presentation.
At room temperature, uncooked lentils (covered) keep well for one year. Precooked, they’ll keep for several months in the refrigerator. There, they’re readily available to toss into stews, salads and vegetarian entrees. They also make healthy snacks, whether munched fried or plain.