Green lentils are the most commonly used variety of lentils and lend themselves to many dishes. If you want them to hold their shape in a dish, don't cook them longer than 30 minutes. They can be used in stews, soups, salads and casseroles.
I also make a lovely lentil loaf with them, which is a great vegetarian substitution for meat loaf. Simply cook the lentils and add lots of finely diced onion, celery, breadcrumbs, fresh herbs or spices and your favorite seasonings, then press into a loaf pan and bake. For loaves and salads, use 2 cups of water to 1 cup of lentils; for soups, use about 4 cups of water to 1 cup of lentils.
Whole green lentils can also be sprouted, which enhances their nutritional value and makes them an excellent source of important digestive enzymes.
Red lentils are small, orange-colored lentils that come either split or whole. The split lentils are the most common and make a great base for soups, as they have a lovely creamy consistency when cooked. They cook in 20 minutes.
Red lentils are commonly used in Indian cooking to make dahl or sambhar, which is a spiced South Indian dish traditionally served with steamed rice cakes called idli. I use them to make my client's favorite Golden Lemon Lentil Soup.
Also known as French lentils, puy lentils are one of my favorites to use in salads. They're a small, brown-colored lentil and can be cooked the same way as green lentils.
One of my favorite salads is puy lentils mixed with roasted sweet squash, baby spinach leaves and black olives with a simple olive oil, lemon and soy sauce dressing. If you eat cheese, it's delicious served with feta cheese sprinkled on top.
I strongly encourage you to be creative, experiment and enjoy the many health benefits of these humble legumes! My Golden Lemon Lentil Soup is one of my staples, as it's so quick and easy to prepare. As an alternative, you can use less water, so you have more of a stew-like consistency and serve on a bed of brown rice or quinoa for a delicious dinner.