It is interesting to note that lentils were a favorite of King Louis XV's wife Marie Leszczynska. With a rugged, dense, and somewhat nutty flavor, they became all the rage among royalty, being aptly referred to as "the queen's lentils."
Washington state can appreciate that. As the Palouse Region in eastern Washington and northern Idaho is known for producing the highest quality lentils in America, a festival of food and fun is held every August in Pullman, Washington, to celebrate their accomplishment.
This year the schedule of events will begin August 22 at 5 pm and conclude the next day at 5 pm. One of the traditional highlights is the Wysup Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram Grand Parade whereby Little Lentil Sprouts take the lead at 11 am in beginning the entertainment in floats, fire trucks, the lentil mascot, rodeo queens, and other distinguished young women. The last event ('Eclectic Approach,' a musical band) of Friday will be held 9:30 pm. The Olson Bros. Band performs at 4 pm the following day. For a full schedule of events, click here.
Throughout various times on both days, experts will be on hand to give demonstrations and answer questions in regard to growing, cooking, and eating lentils.
One of the sponsors for the festival is the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council (USADPLC). Established in 1965, USADPLC is a "non-profit organization to promote and protect the interests of growers, processors, warehousemen, and sellers of dry peas, lentils, and chickpeas in the United States."
It proudly notes that "pulses" (dry peas, lentils, and chickpeas) are packed with protein, fiber, iron, and antioxidants and that they compose the "perfect food" and foundation of the mediterranean diet.
Lentils are small beans coming in shape as round, oval, or heart-shaped. We find them sold as whole or split into halves. Varieties are classified according to color, with the most common in America being green or brown. The green and brown varieties both tend to retain their shape after cooking while black, yellow, red, and orange varieties tend to mush.
Dried lentils can be found in bulk bins or in prepackaged containers. When buying from a bulk bin, make sure the lentils are covered and that no moisture has seeped inside. Check for cracks and insect damage. Store in an airtight container in a dry, cool place. They should keep fresh for about six months. Once cooked, store airtight in refrigerator for up to three days.
To make a lentil casserole, stew, or soup, first lay lentils out in a single layer to inspect for and remove debris or those damaged. Then wash lentils under cool water. After washing, they are directly cooked in a saucepan on top of the stove. They do not need to be pre-soaked. Simply use 2 to 3 cups water or broth for each cup of dried lentils, thus the liquid will show about an inch or two above the top of the beans.
Boil the water first, then add the lentils. When the water again boils after adding lentils, reduce heat to a simmer and cover pan. For brown lentils, cook 45 to 60 minutes. For green, about 30 to 45 minutes. If you desire firmer lentils for use in a salad, then remove pan from heat 10 minutes early.
For a summer salad, cut 2 oranges into cubes, chop up two peppers, and add 2 cups lentils (cooked) on a bed of lettuce. You'll want to season with choice herbs and spices.
To make a layered casserole, use cooked millet, top with cooked lentils, and then steamed spinach in a casserole dish. Add bread crumbs, a few chopped walnuts, and feta cheese. Bake at 300 degrees until heated.
Moroccan soup: Add diced vegetables such as onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes to cooked lentils and season with cumin, turmeric, cayenne, coriander, and olive oil or tamari sauce.
Kushari, National Dish of Egypt: Kushari is made of rice, brown lentils, chickpeas, pasta, and garlic, sometimes with carmelized onions, topped with a tomato-vinegar sauce.
4 lg. eggs
1C vegetable oil
2 t vanilla
Half cup plus 2 Tbs cocoa
1 tsp salt
1C chocolate chips
1C cooked large lentils (cooked 40 minutes and drained. Do not pre-soak)
1C small marshmallows
- Beat the eggs and sugar.
- Add in the oil and vanilla.
- Sift the dry ingredients and add to the sugar and egg mixture.
- Stir in the chocolate chips, cooked lentils, and marshmallows.
- Bake in a greased 9 by 13 inch pan at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.
Brownie recipe from the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council
- "Lentils are friendly—the Miss Congeniality of the bean world.” -- Laurie Colwin