A mainstay of the vegetarian diet, lentils are amazing, full of soluble fiber, and essential vitamins and minerals that strike down cholesterol, help fight against cancer, and let the body use insulin more effectively. A mighty member of the legume family that also comprises beans such as kidney beans and chickpeas, lentils are preferred by many people because they are easier to cook and digest than beans. They in general do not require pre-soaking before cooking and do not cause flatulence.
Lentils provide more protein than the whole grains. According to analyses done by nutritionists, one-fourth cup of uncooked lentils has 150-170 calories, 11 grams of protein, 27 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams fiber, 0.5 grams of fat and no cholesterol. But they do not supply complete proteins. Combine legumes and grains, or legumes and nuts so that the amino acids missing from one are made up by the other to supply complete protein.
In India, the traditional cuisine has always bestowed high regard for the lentil dish known as 'dal' or 'dhal' The following recipes demonstrate the versatile use of different types of lentils.
GARLIC DAL (Savory Lentils)
This dal is the perfect accompaniment to spicy vegetables, bread and rice. One of the favorites is a mix of split green & yellow Mung and split reddish Masoor. When cooked, dry dal becomes almost 4 times in volume. Serve it hot when well mixed and of semi-liquid consistency. It can be refrigerated or frozen.
- 1/2 cup Mung split dal with peel
- 1/2 cup Masoor split dal
- 1/2 chopped onion
- 1 chopped tomato
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon crushed garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
- 1 teaspoon crushed green chili
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- Garnish: 1 tablespoon green chopped coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
Pick over dry 'dal' for grit; rinse a couple of times and drain.
Bring to boil about 3 cups water in a 2-quart saucepan. Add 'dal' to hot water. Stir in salt and turmeric powder. (Water can boil over when 'dal' is added; lower the heat as needed.)
Partially cover and simmer on medium heat until 'dal' is tender, 30-45 minutes. (Add hot water depending on the consistency desired.) Note: Split 'dal' can be cooked in a slow cooker [2-3 hours] or in a pressure cooker for about 6 minutes.
To saute, heat the oil in a small skillet on medium heat. Add cumin seeds; as soon as they change color (few seconds), add garlic and onions. Stir, sprinkling little water if needed, until onions are golden brown. Add ginger and remaining seasonings (except tomatoes and garam masala); stir for a couple of minutes. Add tomatoes and cook for another minute.
Mix the sauted seasonings into the cooked 'dal' and continue cooking on medium heat for 5-10 minutes until 'dal' is thickened. Add garam masala.
Serve hot, garnished with green coriander. Optionally sprinkle lemon juice.
Healthy Alternative: Add some vegetable stock or 3 tablespoons of Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) when dal is half cooked.
Makes about 6 servings, cup each. Per serving
Nutritive Value: 115 calories, 6 g protein, 17.4 g carb, 4 g fiber, 3 g fat, 0 mg chol.
Food Group Exchange: 1 Legumes/Meat, 1/6 Vegetable, 1/6 Fat.