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Beans, Peas and Lentils, Oh My!

Beans, Peas and Lentils, Oh My!

Getting the most out of dried legumes.


Dried legumes are beans, peas and lentils. They are a very good source of protein and quite inexpensive. I began learning about legumes in making soup. They make some of the best soups. Beans, peas and lentils can be used as a main dish themselves. To enhance them, you can make it a diary dish by adding cheese, or go the opposite direction and add meat.

For extra flavor, more substance and nutrition, dried legumes should be soaked for several hours before cooking or they may be brought to a boil and then soaked for one hour. This will enable you to check them more easily for bugs as well as preparing the legumes for proper cooking. Cook them slowly so that the skins don’t break.

This week I'm concentrating on lentils. Lentils are very versatile. They may be substituted for peas and beans in most recipes. They come in orange or green. The red ones are more tender and savory. Be careful not to overcook them. Let’s get cooking.

Lentil Salad with Couscous

  • 1 cup green lentils
  • 3 tbsps. wine
  • 11/2 cups water
  • 1 cup couscous (see it doesn’t look Jewish)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced and mashed with 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 1 bunch parsley, chopped
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 lb. white cheese, crumbled
  • vinegar
  • more salt, and pepper, to taste


Simmer lentils in water until tender, 15 minutes, then drain. Add 1 tbsp. vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, stirring occasionally.

In a sauce pan, bring water to boil, add couscous and salt. Remove from heat, cover couscous 5 minutes. Fluff and transfer. Stir in 1 tbsp. oil and cool while stirring.

In a small bowl, whisk together garlic, 2 tbsps. vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Stir lentils and dressing into couscous. Chill before serving. Stir in remaining season with salt and pepper.


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Green Lentils with Carrots and Onions

  • 20 ozs. of onions
  • 3 tbsps. margarine
  • 2 large carrots, sliced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 tsps. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. white pepper
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 cups green lentils
  • 5 cups water
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley


Heat margarine. Saute onions, carrots, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme and bay leaves. Stir occasionally until soft.

Add lentils and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer partially covered until lentils are soft, 15 minutes. Transfer lentils to a serving dish. Decorate.


*     *     *


Lentil Soup

See "Soup to Nuts."


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Braised Lentils

  • 3 tbsps. oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 11/2 cup dried green lentils
  • 4 cups chicken stock


Heat oil in frying pan. Add onions, carrots and celery, about 3 minutes or until soft. Add the lentils and stir for one minute. Add stock, bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium, cover and simmer until lentils are tender. Season with salt and pepper.

Makes about 4 servings.


*     *     *


Easy Lentil Soup with Curry

  • 2/3 green or orange lentils
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped shallots or onions
  • 1/2 cup soup mix
  • 2 tsps. good-quality curry powder
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tsps. Salt


Put the lentils, the shallots or onions, the curry powder, 4 cups of water with soup mix and 2 tsps. salt into a medium-size heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer 25 minutes, or until tender.

Process in a food processor until smooth. The soup will still have a rough texture because of the lentils.

Makes 2 servings.


*     *     *


Kosher Sausage (Pareve or Meat), Lentils and Diced Carrots

  • 11/2 lbs. parve or meat sausage, if you are lucky; pareve or meat hot dos, if you are not
  • 12 ozs. lentils
  • 3 large carrots, peeled


Put the sausage in a large pot and cover with 8 cups cold water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer until ready. Remove the sausage and set aside.

Wash the lentils, drain and add to the sausage cooking liquid. Bring to a boil. Add ½ tsp. whole black peppercorns, lower the heat, and cook the lentils 35-40 minutes, until they are soft but not falling apart. Drain and keep warm.

Meanwhile, grate the carrots. Boil in a small amount of salted water for 2 minutes, or until soft. Drain and keep warm.

When ready to serve, boil the sausage in water for 2 minutes to reheat. Place the warm lentils on a platter. Cut the sausage into 1”-thick slices and place on top. Scatter the carrots over the sausage and lentils. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.


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September 3, 2005

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Visitor Comments: 4

(3) Lisa Genstil, September 4, 2005 12:00 AM

Dissolving split peas

I have a split pea soup recipe that my whole family loves, but I find that the split peas just don't melt the way they're supposed to. Any suggestions?
Thank you very much.

Generally speaking you just need to cook them longer. But if you add baking soda to any legume it cuts the cooking time by 50% and it will cause them to dissolve if cooked to long or as you want them. Chef Herschel

Anonymous, April 12, 2012 12:15 AM

White things in my lentils

Recently i've thrown out 2 batches of lentils due to finding white things in them after cooking (after sorting,rinseing,etc.) I bought a new bag and the same thing. Is this normal? or is this a bug?

(2) chmouel, September 4, 2005 12:00 AM

lentils recipes

Becuse of high levels of bad cholesterol, I had decided to replace sa often as possible meat by legumes. Frankly,I didn't have the slightest idea how to make pleasant meals with legumes particularly with leentils. Thank you, chef Hershel for providing us with a few delicious recipes.

(1) Anna, September 4, 2005 12:00 AM

What about 'Mushy Peas' ?

Do you ever make English-style 'mushy peas' with split peas ? They are really nice & really easy & are meat-free.Alas, I have lost my recipe, but since I read your recipes I have been inspired to look for a recipe for MP again-many thanks !!!

I used to love home-made soup with split peas; we used to have shin beef in it & the beef would become so tender that it fell off the bone & was the most delicious thing in the world. It makes me groan with greed just to think about this delicious meal, served with mashed potato in the bottom of the soup-bowl, Irish style...

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