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May 24, 2012

Purcell Mountain Farms Lentils

by Anne Paddock

For many years, the extent of my relationship with lentils was limited to lentil soup which never seemed to have as much flavor as a  bean and vegetable soup and was certainly not as appetizing to look at. Then, while shopping in a small grocery store, I noticed bags of multi-colored lentils which intrigued me as I always thought lentils were limited to either the little French dark green puy variety or the big hearty American version.

There are actually more than a dozen different varieties of lentils, each with a distinctive color, texture, and taste. High in protein and fiber, lentils are a nutritious alternative to consider as a main course and here is the secret that nobody ever told me: lentils can be cooked and served in their natural shape or if cooked longer, some lentils serve as a great thickener for soups or pasta dishes. Cooking several varieties together results in the small lentils breaking down and providing a thick base while the heartier lentils keep their shape and give that extra nutty earthy flavor. And, using different colored lentils make a dish more appetizing to look at.

canstockphoto1207036If I was going to purchase lentils, I wanted to purchase them from the source as I knew the chances of getting the freshest product would lay with going to the grower. In the northeastern part of Idaho at the foothills of the Purcell Mountain Range is a family-owned and operated farm called Purcell Mountain Farms. A grower and distributor of a dozen varieties of lentils, Purcell Mountain Farms sells locally grown delicious lentils for about $3-$4 a pound, depending on the amount purchased. A brief description of their lentils is as follows:

Petite Estoria: This dark green lentil breaks down in cooking and serves as a great thickener.

Petite Golden: A small, firm round yellow lentil that holds its shape in cooking. The flavor is mild and earthy.

Petite Castillo: These small dark-colored lentils have a nutty earthy taste and take about 30 minutes to cook.

Black Beluga:  A small shiny black lentil that keeps its shape when cooked for 15-20 minutes.

French Green: A tiny green lentil similar to the French grown variety known as Puy. These lentils require about 45 minutes of cooking time but they tend to keep their shape.

Petite Crimson: The Petite Crimson lentil is a small orange lentil that cooks in about 5-6 minutes if used as a side dish and in about 20 minutes if used as a thickener in soups or dishes.

Spanish Pardina: A small lentil with a nutty flavor that holds its shape when cooked.

Canary:  Bright yellow lentils that hold their shape when cooked for 5-6 minutes. A longer cooking time will allow them to break down and serve as a thickener for soups and dishes.

Red Chief: An orangey red lentil that can be cooked for    minutes to retain its shape or longer if being used as a thickener for a soup of dish.

Marrone: A round brown flat lentil known for its full flavor which leads it to be used often as a meat substitute.

Ivory: The ivory lentil is also known as the “Ural Dal” lentil.This ivory white lentil is known for its mild earthy flavor and soft texture.

Lenticchie: A small light brown disk-shaped lentil that cooks in 20-30 minutes.

One of my favorite lentil dishes is “Pasta with Lentils” which reminds me of  a cross between a hearty chowder and a risotto. With lentils and a small, thick pasta as the foundation for the dish, I add onions, carrots, and celery for vegetables and freshly grated parmesan cheese to get that extra creamy flavor. This is not a dish that will wow you with eye appeal but it’s simple and delicious. I always put my “Pasta with Lentils” in a pretty bowl which makes the finished product look better. Grate fresh parmesan on the top, if desired. A satisfying dish that can be served as a main course, “Pasta with Lentils” can be reheated and served as lunch, also. I keep a container in the refrigerator for a quick healthy snack.

dsc_0025Pasta with Lentils

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Large Vidalia onion, chopped
4 large carrots, chopped
2 large stalks celery, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup of lentils (I use a blend with my standard being: Petite Golden, Petite Crimson, Spanish Pardina, Black Beluga, and Ivory White – some will fall apart and make the dish heartier while others will keep their shape and cling to the pasta)
1 small (2 inches by 1 inch) Parmesan Cheese Rind (leftover from a piece of parmesan)
4 cups of water
8 ounces of Sclafani Little Hats 300 Pasta (or any small thick pasta),cooked al dente
1 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup of chopped fresh parsley (optional)

  • Melt the unsalted butter in a large soup pot.
  • Add the salt and chopped onions, carrots, and celery and saute for 5-6 minutes over medium heat, being careful not to brown the vegetables.
  • Add the water, rind, and lentils. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat, cover and cook for 20-25 minutes.
  • Add the cooked pasta, cover and simmer for an additional 10 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and discard the parmesan rind.
  • Stir in the parmesan cheese.
  • Stir in the fresh parsley and serve.
  • Pass extra freshly grated parmesan.

Purcell Mountain Farms
393 Firehouse Road
Moyie Springs, Idaho  83845

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