Lentils used to come in just one color – all-purpose brown – but these days green lentils from France and red lentils, which are popular in Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine, have become widely available. If you can’t find them at your supermarket look for these lovely little beauties in ethnic or whole-foods markets.

Like most legumes, lentils absorb other seasonings as they cook, making them the perfect vehicle for such intense flavors as garlic and lemon and curry and ginger.

 

Gingered and Curried Red Lentils

Red lentils have a subtly sweet taste all their own and dissolve into an almost completely smooth puree when cooked, absorbing seasonings nicely in the process. Add a basket of warm flatbreads and a chopped cucumber and tomato salad to complete this meal.

Serves 4

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 tablespoons minced or grated fresh ginger

1 tablespoon curry powder, plus more to taste

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 pound red lentils, rinsed and picked over

4 to 5 cups vegetable or chicken broth, or a combination of broth and water

¾ teaspoon salt, or to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

â…“ cup chopped cilantro or parsley

Juice of half a lemon

Hot cooked basmati or jasmine rice

Plain yogurt for dolloping

Heat oil in a large, heavy saucepan. Add onion and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until softened and lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, curry powder and cumin, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add lentils, 4 cups broth, and the salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and cook covered until soft, 20 to 30 minutes. Add the additional broth if mixture seems in danger of sticking or scorching. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste and add a bit more curry powder if you like. (Can be made ahead to this point and refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen.)

When ready to serve, reheat gently and stir in the cilantro and lemon juice. Spoon over rice, top with a dollop of yogurt, and serve.

GREEN LENTIL STEW WITH SPINACH AND POTATOES

French green lentils (lentilles du Puy) are small legumes with a pleasantly flinty flavor. They hold their color and shape when cooked and are great in combination with potatoes and spinach in this garlicky-lemony stew. Pass crusty bread for sopping up all the lovely juices.

Serves 4

2 cups green lentils, rinsed and picked over

4 cups vegetable or chicken broth

1 cup water

¾ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, sliced

3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1½ pounds unpeeled red-skinned potatoes, halved or quartered and sliced

1 pound baby spinach leaves, coarsely chopped or 1 (10-ounce) box frozen spinach (see Note)

1½ teaspoons grated lemon zest

â…“ cup lemon juice

½ cup chopped fresh mint

Freshly ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan, combine lentils, broth, water, and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer covered until lentils are almost tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

In a large saucepan or deep, covered skillet, heat the oil. Add onion and cook over medium heat until beginning to soften, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cayenne and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add lentils and their cooking liquid, along with the potatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook covered for 15 minutes. Add the spinach and simmer until wilted and potatoes and lentils are very tender, about 5 more minutes. The consistency should be stew-like; adjust liquid if necessary.

Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice, and mint and season with more salt and pepper to taste. Serve in shallow soup bowls.

Note: If using frozen spinach, add with the potatoes.

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently “Lobster!” (Storey, 2012). She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula, and can be contacted via Facebook at

facebook.com/brookedojny