When learning how to cook lentils, it's important to understand the makeup of this versatile food source. Lentils are lens-shaped seeds that grow in pods with about two seeds per pod. Because they grow in a variety of colors, lentils rival the rainbow from pale French green lentils to the vividly shaded and more common red lentils, with just about every earth color you can describe appearing in between.
How to Cook Lentils
Preparing lentils requires a little patience and time on your part. For starters, make sure you clean a bag of lentils thoroughly. Debris such as small stones and bits of seed pod and dirt can be swept up into the package when the lentils are being processed. Because lentils are only sold dried, they not only must be cleaned and sorted, but they must also be re-hydrated.
Rinse lentils until the water runs clear. Oftentimes, it's also easier to soak the lentils for a few hours and then discard the water and rinse a second time, but this step is not necessary. After you have sufficiently rinsed and soaked the lentils, place them in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, and cover them with broth. Water can be used, but because the lentils will absorb the liquid, it's best to cook them in a liquid that has some flavor to it. As the lentils absorb the liquid-they will begin to turn to mush-add more liquid until you reach the desired consistency.
One of the best ways to cook lentils is in a crockpot, but you still need to be attentive. Lentils will absorb the liquid in the pot, and when they do they'll burn if more liquid is not added quickly.
Though lentils are good for you, they don't have a great stand-alone taste. Seasoning always makes a big difference, so add plenty of spice as you cook. If you wait to season the lentils as you serve them to individual plates, the spices won't blend and become part of the dish. However, don't add salt to the lentils while cooking because salt tends to toughen the skins.
Lentils are great for your vegetarian guests. Lentils have protein, so adding them to soups or stews in place of meat works well. You can make a delicious vegetarian soup with potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, lentils, cumin, crushed red pepper flakes and vegetable broth.
Crockpot Lentil Soup
Ingredients You Will Need:
12 ounces lentils
2 bay leaves
1 medium onion, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped (including some leaves)
5 potatoes, peeled and chopped
4 cups vegetable broth
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon sage
½ teaspoon marjoram
½ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
16 ounces tomatoes, chopped with juice
Sort and rinse the lentils. Place all ingredients, except the salt and tomatoes, into the crockpot. Cook the soup for about four hours on high, checking often. In the last hour of cooking, add the tomatoes. In the last half hour, add the salt and any additional spices you deem necessary.
This iconic American classic is served from sea to shining sea for good reason. It is delicious and goes great alongside just about any meat you want to put on the table.