Lentils are only available dried. They are not used fresh.
Select lentils that are dry, firm, clean, and unshriveled. The color of lentils you choose will depend on your usage, but in general, the color should be fairly uniform. Canned lentils are also available, but it is just as easy to cook your own.
If your recipe calls for a lentil that will retain its shape whendone, common brown lentils are the usual choice. Brown lentils still have their seed coat and have not been split. Most red, yellow, and orange lentils tend to disintegrate with long cooking because the hulls have been removed. Slightly sweet in flavor, these are best reserved for pureed soups or stew thickeners.
Other choices include French lentils which are olive-green and slate-colored. Thesewill cook up the firmest. Persian green lentils will turn brown as they cook and become nice and tender while still retaining their shape. Considered the most flavorful (and most expensive) are the French Puy lentils, which also retain their shape.
You may be able to find lentil flour in some specialty markets. It is used in India to make a fermented dough for breadmaking.
Lentil StorageDried lentils have an indefinite shelf-life, yet another reason why our ancestors kept them as a staple food. With age, the color may fade a bit, but the flavor will not noticeably deteriorate. Store lentils in a sealed package or airtight container in a cool, dry place. For best flavor and presentation, use dried lentils within one year.
Cooked lentils may be refrigerated up to one week in asealed container. Cooked lentils may also be frozen up to six months. However, they may fall apart when reheated if not handled gently.
More About Lentils and Lentil Recipes:
• Lentil Selection and Storage
• Lentil Cooking Tips and Preparation
• Lentil Equivalents
• Lentil History
• Lentil Recipes
Lentil Cooking Tips
• Lentils are a natural in soups and stews and also make a greatcold salad.
• Lentils need no pre-soaking and cook much more quickly than other dried legumes.
• To cook lentils, simply pick over to remove debris or shriveled lentils, rinse, and drain. Cover with water or broth and boil for 2 to 3 minutes (to aid in digestion). Reduce heat and simmer until tender. Depending on the variety and age, cooking time may take anywhere from 10 minutes to 1 hour.• When using a pressure cooker to cook lentils, add a teaspoon of oil to keep the scum from blocking the safety valve.
• Salt added to the cooking water will toughen the beans. Add salt once the lentils are completely cooked.
• Acidic ingredients such as wine or tomatoes can lengthen cooking time. You may wish to add these ingredients after the lentils have become tender.
• Lentils shouldbe liberally seasoned.
• The high protein content in lentils makes them an excellent meat substitute.
• Older lentils will take longer to cook because they have lost more moisture. Do not mix newly-purchased lentils with old ones. They will cook unevenly.
Ginger flavors the creamed lentil soup and spiced carmelized onions make a fabulous garnish for this rich soup from India. You will need afood processor or blender to puree the cooked lentils.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
• 1-1/2 cups red lentils
• 4 cups chicken broth or water
• 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
• 1 (1-inch) piece ginger root, peeled and chopped
• 2 tomatoes, chopped
• 1 cup milk
• 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
• 1/4 cup unsalted butter• 1 yellow onion, finely shredded
• 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
• Fresh-ground black pepper, to taste
• 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, optional
Pick over the lentils, removing any stones or misshapen or discolored lentils. Rinse thoroughly and place in a nonreactive deep pot. Add the chicken broth or water, turmeric, ginger, and tomatoes bring to a boil....