Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Learn to Love Lentils (Dhal)

When the Environmental Working Group this week released its Meat Eaters Guide to Climate Change and Health, much was made of the heavy-emissions end of the spectrum, where beef and cheese land, owing to the greenhouse emissions from cows (starting with the pesticides and fertilizers used to grow their feed, and ending with their gassy stomachs). But on the lighter side of the spectrum, you'll find the humble lentil.

Sure, chicken may be the best meat, but no protein-rich food is as light on the environment as lentils, according to the Environmental Work Group's analysis of greenhouse gas emissions from food production and distribution.

Lentils are a superfoods, not only high in protein but also fiber and a variety of other nutrients; it's one of the top 10 sources of iron. And they're virtually fat-free.

Even know lentils are among the oldest cultivated crops in the world, they may take a little getting-to-know. Typically sold dry (canned lentils may have BPA, like any other canned food), the most common types of lentils are green or brown, but they come in a rainbow of colors, from yellow, orange and red to black. The most common types tend to retain their shape after cooking, while those
colorful varieties are more likely to turn to a mush reminiscent of a zesty Indian dal.

Fortunately, among legumes, lentils are among the most versatile and easy to work with. Unlike other beans that need to be soaked overnight, lentils can be prepared in as little as 20 minutes. Boil three cups of water per cup of lentils while you separate and rinse the dry beans. Add the lentils to the boiling water and allow the pot to return to a simmer before covering and letting cook for 20-30 minutes, until they're tender.

Try out this great yummy recipe:


1 1/2 cups brown Basmati rice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons minced, peeled fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala (or 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder plus 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon)
1 garlic clove, chopped
4 cups water
2 cups green lentils, picked over and rinsed
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes
1 can (14 to 14 1/2 ounces) vegetable broth (1 3/4 cups)
1 bag (9 ounces) fresh spinach or 1 package (10 ounces) frozen leaf spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

1. Prepare Basmati rice as label directs.

2. Meanwhile, in 6-quart saucepot, heat oil over medium heat until hot. Add onion and cook 8 to 10 minutes or until tender and lightly browned. Stir in ginger, garam masala, and garlic, and cook 1 minute. Add water, lentils, potatoes, tomatoes, broth, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; heat to boiling over high heat.

3. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 25 minutes or until lentils and potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally. Add spinach; heat through. Serve stew with rice.

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION (based on individual servings)
Calories: 520
Total Fat: 5 g
Saturated Fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 675 mg
Carbohydrates: 97 g
Fiber: 17 g
Protein: 25 g

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