Lentils are really easy to cook. I find many people shy away from them as “some exotic foodstuff”, yet in the same kitchen they readily cook mung (monggo) beans. Lentils (Lens culinaris) are an ancient legume and evidence of it has been found in pre-historic sites in Egypt and Europe. Today they are primarily grown in Asia, especially in India, where â€œdahl,â€ a dish of stewed lentils is frequently eaten (actually dahl refers to several kinds of split legumes). There are many sizes of lentils throughout the world and the spectrum of colors is also impressive. I love the deep orange and yellow Indian lentils but my favorite are the small Verte du Puy (green Puy) lentils from France. For everyday cooking, the medium sized brown lentils available in most large groceries does fine. Nutritionally, they are excellent and next only to Soya beans in protein content at 25%, according to Alan Davidson in his Oxford Companion to Food.
My wife likes to make this lentil and tomato concoction that is served with a grilled sausage or some porkchops. To make, sautÃ© whole garlic and chopped onions in olive oil until slightly cooked. Add washed lentils and stir to coat it with oil and flavorings. Add water or chicken, ham or beef broth and some chopped canned tomatoes. Throw in a bay leaf and cracked black pepper. Cook until some liquid is absorbed and add more liquid to the desired consistency (can be thinner or thicker, up to you). When lentils are soft remove the whole garlic, mash it and return to dish. When close to finishing the soup, add kosher or rock salt to taste. Do not add salt earlier as the lentils will have a harder time softening/cooking. Meanwhile, grill a sausage or fry up some pork chops and slice and serve on top of the lentils. Excellent with a hot crusty baguette and a green salad with vinaigrette.