Back to the Kitchen: A surprising and versatile legume

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gwen-upper110x110BY GWEN KENNEALLY

French green, little red, little green, brown and black are some of the more common varieties of lentils, which are legumes that generally have a rich nutty flavor. They are grown in pods, which contain one or two seeds each. There are many varieties that are classified as large or small and are round, oval or heart shaped One of my most favorite foods lentils have long been a staple in vegetarian diets as well as really for anyone interested in great tasting healthy dishes. Lentils are generally used in soups and stews. Green and brown lentils hold their shape fairly well if not overcooked and can be added to salads and other dishes. Little red lentils are great for adding color, but get mushy if over cooked The varieties that are soft after cooking are used mainly to thicken stews and soups or are made into purees. Feel free to mix all of the varieties, expand your diet and try some of these flavorful recipes.





Lentil, Fennel and Roast Beet Salad

3 cups dry green lentils


1 large onion chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

1 medium carrot, cut into 2 pieces

1 celery stalk, cut into 2 pieces

2 bay leaves

6 green onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced

1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced

4 roasted beets, finely chopped

Lemon Shallot Dressing (recipe below)


Freshly ground pepper

1-cup feta cheese

1/4 cup minced parsley

Put the lentils into a large saucepan. Add water to cover plus 3 inches. Bring to the boiling point and lower heat to very low. Add the onion, garlic, carrot, celery and bay leaves. Simmer covered for about 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender but not mushy; they must retain their shape. Drain the lentils and remove the vegetables. Turn the lentils into a bowl while they are still hot. Add the green onions and the French dressing. Mix well. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Cool the lentils then cover the bowl and refrigerate for 2 hours to blend the flavors.

 At serving time, drain off any excess dressing. Turn into a flat serving dish, garnish with the tomato wedges and sprinkle with the parsley.

Whisk together 1/3 cup olive oil, juice of two large lemons (or to taste), 3 garlic cloves, minced, 1 shallot minced, 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, salt and pepper to taste.

Lentil Stew

 1/2-cup olive oil

6 cloves garlic

1 cup chopped opinion

1-cup carrots

1-cup broccoli

1-cup kale

1-cup spinach

2 cups little green lentils

4 cups vegetable stock

4 cups marinara sauce

1/2 cup red wine

Salt and pepper to taste

2-tablespoons basil, thyme

In a large soup pot heat oil and sauté over medium heat onions and garlic. Add lentils, carrots, broccoli, kale and spinach.  Add the rest of the ingredients and cook over low heat for about one hour. 

Bouquet Garni

Small bunch of Parsley

8 sprigs thyme

8 sage leaves

2 bay leaves

Make a little herb packet by wrapping in a small piece of cheesecloth and securing by tying with a piece of kitchen string. This prevents the herbs from floating around and makes it easy to remove at the end. The bouquet garni can be varied to suit your dish or taste. I like to use peppercorns, rosemary, whole cloves, whole nutmeg, dill, garlic, peels of lemon, limes and oranges.

Lentil Burgers 

1-cup lentils

2 1/2-cup water

1 bay leaf

1 small red onion, finely diced

1 celery stick, finely diced

1 carrot, finely diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 inch ginger, peeled and minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon each dried thyme, rosemary and sage

1/2 teaspoon crushed red peppers

1/4-teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)

Juice of one small lemon

3/4-cup steel cut oats

3/4-cup breadcrumbs

Salt and pepper to taste

My secret Sauce (see below)

In a medium saucepan simmer the lentils in water with the bay leaf until the water is absorbed and the lentil skins split open easily, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile heat the oil and sauté the onion, garlic, ginger, celery and carrots in a medium skillet until soft. Remove from the heat and add remaining ingredients except the steel cut oats and breadcrumbs. In a food processor finely grind the steel cut oats. Combine the lentil mixture, oats and breadcrumbs and mix well. Shape into 12 patties and place on a baking pan sprayed with bakers joy. Bake at 400 degrees about 15 minutes until slightly brown. You can also cook them on a grill for about 5 minutes per side. Serve on a nice whole grain bun with all of your favorite trimmings or my secret sauce.

My Secret Sauce

Combine together 1/2-cup mayonnaise, 3/4-cup ketchup, 3 finely chopped dill pickles, 1/2 of an onion finely chopped and horseradish to taste.

Gwen Kenneally is the owner of Back to the Kitchen, Full Service Catering and Party Planning. Check out her website and blog and

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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

  • Jackie Houchin

    Where’s the beef?
    I had to chuckle after reading your Lentil Salad recipe because at first glance, I thought it read Lentil, Fennel and BEEF salad! It looks like a great vegetarian meal. Oh, and that greens-rich stew sounds yummy too. It might be a good day to make it, with the morning begining cool and foggy. I WILL mix up some of your secret sauce… but I’m not certain I’m ready for a lentil burger. :o )

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