By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.
If you’ve been coming to this site for a while, you probably know that I’m a lentil fan and highly recommend lentil pasta as heart-healthy alternative to traditional white pasta (for those who are not sensitive to lectins). Lentils are not only a terrific source of vegetarian/vegan protein and heart-healthy fiber, they’re rich in natural antioxidant compounds called polyphenols, which help protect the body against cancer, obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Plus, they’re a great source of iron as well as other various minerals and vitamins. So, although they’re not the most exciting of foods, lentils have a lot going for them.
Depending on the season, I love either hot lentils as a soup base or cold lentils as a salad. Compared with other legumes like beans, they’re relatively quick to prepare. If working with dried lentils, be sure to rinse them thoroughly and remove any small stone fragments. Use 3 cups of water for every 1 cup of lentils. Add them to boiling water and cook for 10 to 30 minutes, depending on type of lentil and dish: green lentils take longer than red lentils, and lentil salads require less cooking time than soup.
Here are two delicious lentil recipes for you to enjoy…Mangiare!
Lentil Salad Recipe with Garlic Roasted Veggies
With so many textures and flavors going on in this dish – from the caramelized roasted veggies to the tangy tahini dressing – lentils provide the perfect canvas for all that goodness!
- 1 cup lentils, sorted and rinsed
- 3 cups filtered water
- 1 small onion, quartered
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- EVOO or Lemon Flavored Olive Oil – 1 Tbsp + more for drizzling
- 8 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces (rainbow variety is great!)
- Optional: 7 radishes, scrubbed and quartered
- 5 whole garlic cloves, peeled
- EVOO or Garlic Olive Oil – 2 Tbsp + more for drizzling
- Savory Salt Blend: Pink Himalayan, French Sel Gris (gray salt) and California Sea salts), to taste
- Pepper & Juniper Blend (a mix of black and white peppercorns with juniper berries), to taste
- 1 tsp Olive Oil Dipping Spices
- 1/4 red onion, thin sliced or chopped
- Chopped fresh parsley for garnish
Place lentils in a saucepan with 3 cups water, a few grinds of Savory Salt Blend, 2 smashed garlic cloves and the quartered yellow onion. Bring to a boil, then simmer 30 minutes. Drain and discard all ingredients except for lentils. Toss with 1 Tbsp lemon olive oil (or EVOO and a squeeze of fresh lemon) and set aside.
While lentils are cooking, preheat oven to 375 F. On a sheet pan or in a roasting pan, toss cut carrots and radishes, if using, plus 5 garlic cloves with skin on with 2 Tbsp EVOO or garlic olive oil, a few grinds of Savory Salt and Pepper & Juniper Blends (to taste), and a tsp of Olive Oil Dipping Spice Blend. Roast for 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to ensure even browning. When veggies are caramelized and tender, allow mixture to cool to room temperature. Combine with the cooked lentils and add red onion.
Dress with a generous drizzle of Lemon Olive Oil, Garlic Olive Oil, or a combination of both. Pro-tip – if you don’t have garlic cloves on hand, use more Garlic Olive Oil. Add tahini dressing (recipe below) if you want an additional lemon, sesame flavor.
Tahini Dressing for Lentil Salad
- 3 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 1/2 tsp Savory Salt Blend
- 1/4 tsp Pepper & Juniper Blend
- 3-4 Tbsp warm water
Whisk all in a bowl until smooth and creamy with the consistency of heavy cream. Drizzle on top of lentil salad and finish with a dash of olive oil (EVOO, Lemon Olive Oil and Garlic Olive Oil all work well).
Lentil Soup Recipe
On cold fall or winter days, there’s nothing like this nutritious and flavorful lentil soup to satisfy hunger and warm you up from the inside.
- Cold-pressed olive oil: EVOO and/or or Garlic Flavored Olive Oil or Lemon Flavored Olive Oil
- 3 to 4 cloves minced garlic (if not using Garlic Olive Oil)
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 3 or 4 large carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 to 3 celery stalks, sliced
- 1 box or can of diced tomatoes, or 1-2 cups of diced fresh tomatoes
- 1 cup lentils
- 6 to 7 cups of vegetable stock (for vegan soup) or chicken broth
- Natural Salt Blend, to taste
- Pepper & Juniper Blend, to taste
- 1 tsp Olive Oil Dipping Spice Blend
- Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
- Optional: 2 cups spinach or kale, sliced into ribbons
- Optional garnish: grated Parmesan cheese
To make, sauté the onion, garlic, carrots, and celery in olive oil of choice until the onions are translucent. Add the veggie or chicken stock, lentils, tomatoes and dipping spices, and bring to a boil. Simmer 20 to 30 minutes, until lentils are tender. Stir in the optional greens and cook for an additional few minutes until the greens have softened. Season with salts and peppers, and add more Dipping Spice Blend, if desired. Ladle into individual bowls, and finish each with a drizzle of Garlic and/or Lemon Flavored Olive Oil, chopped fresh parsley and optional Parmesan cheese.
Related Recipe: Sweet Potato and Lentil Soup with Garlic Olive Oil
Until I made the cold lentil salad recipe above, I never thought of radishes as a veggie you could cook this way; but just like other root veggies, they yielded delicious roasting results! Roasting brings out the sweet flavors and tenderizes the radish. I realize their potent flavor is not for everyone, which is why they’re optional. However, as members of the cruciferous veggie family, which is known for its cancer-fighting properties, radishes bring some health benefits to the table. Before adding them to dishes, try roasting them on their own, and – you never know – you just might like them!
- Ganesan, Kumar, and Baojun Xu. “Polyphenol-Rich Lentils and Their Health Promoting Effects.” International journal of molecular sciences vol. 18,11 2390. 10 Nov. 2017, doi:10.3390/ijms18112390
- World’s Healthiest Foods. Lentils. WHFoods.org, last accessed Aug. 27, 2020 at http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=52
© Stephen Sinatra, MD. All rights reserved.