Most people view lentils as a legume best left to expert cooks. However, their nutritional benefits and relative ease of preparation make them a staple ingredient in any kitchen pantry. Whether you’re struggling to maintain a healthy eating regimen, or made a New Year’s resolution to eat more whole foods, lentils should be at the top of your grocery list.
The humble lentil is a powerhouse of nutrition. They are exceptionally high in fiber, which makes them excellent for keeping cholesterol levels in check and managing blood sugar. Lentils also provide crazy amounts of vitamins, antioxidants and protein, all for a bit over 200 calories per cup.
Lentils, one of the earliest domesticated crops, are most popular in India and throughout the Middle East. However, their popularity has expanded worldwide, and they are one of the cornerstones of Vegetarian diets.
Chef Ahmad Yasin, passionate about healthy Middle Eastern food, teaches classes in his Watertown kitchen, Kareem’s Restaurant. One of his favorite dishes to teach is lentil soup; the recipe is easy for the home cook, and teaches the American palate to appreciate the hearty texture and taste of lentils:
“Brown lentil soup is very popular in the Arab world and has been enjoyed for centuries. Traditionally, it is actually eaten as a meal due to its hearty texture. It is loaded with iron. The lentils are cooked with short grain rice until creamy, then caramelized onions in olive oil or butter, lemon juice, cumin and Syrian red pepper are added. Topped with finely chopped parsley.”
Shorbat al -‘Adis (Brown Lentil soup)
by Ahmad Yasin, Kareem’s Restaurant
4 cups brown lentils
1cup short grain rice
3 medium size onion, minced
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoon Syrian red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon salt
6 tablespoons butter and 2- tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Finely chopped parsley when served
14-16 cups water
1. Wash the lentils and the rice under cold water. In a large pot, bring the water to a boil. Add the lentils and rice. Reduce the heat to medium and cover. Stir from time to time and cook about 45 minutes or until thick and creamy; at this point, reduce heat to low.
2. In a large skillet, heat the butter and oil, add the onions and cook until they are caramelized golden brown. Pour over the soup and stir.
3. Add the salt, pepper, cumin and lemon juice and stir. Serve with crunchy Arabic flatbread. Sprinkle parsley on each individual serving. “Kul Haneean” (Eat with Joy).
[ This post originally appeared on Examiner.com in January 2010. ]