Thursday, July 17, 2008

Food of the Week: Lentils

On Sunday nights, I like to get in the kitchen and play around a bit. When I do it right, Ill have dinner and a perfect lunch for work. This weekend I bought a bag of green lentils. They looked like small mossy pebbles newly unearthed from the muddy earth.

Basing a weeks worth of meals around the lentil is kind to your pocket book and gift to your body (and it prevents that ill-conceived sandwich of left over hoisin bok choy and hickory turkey made in a rush at 7 am.)

Lentils are one of the oldest cultivated foods; archeologists have found lentil seeds in the Middle East dating back 8000 years. A member of the bean family, lentils are chock full of protein and fiber, about 17 grams of each per cup. The lentil is a complex carbohydrate which provides long lasting energy. Complex carbs are simple carbs chemically bonded together. Our body gets energy when those bonds are broken; because this process is slow, each lentil lunch fills me up and keeps me powered long into the afternoon. Eating lentils is also a great way to show your heart some love. High levels of magnesium and folate found in the legume are essential for good cardiovascular health.

The great beauty of the lentil is its versatility. Personally, I simply emptied the bag in to a pot, covered them with an inch of water (this depends on the type of lentil you choose) added a bouillon cube and let heat do the rest. Then, I doctored them up with red onion, feta and a light vinaigrette, but you can do so many other things too! Check out these easy options.

Salmon with Lentils and Mustard Herb Butter -- Classic French dish, and oh so flavorful
Lentil Salad with Tomato and Dill-- A wonderful excuse to go to the farmer's market midweek!
Curried Lentil and Spinach Soup -- Cold in that air conditioning? Try an easy soup!