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Healthy Living Recipes

Deb Morgan: If you’re a fan of olive oil, like me, you absolutely must read Tom Mueller’s new book, Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil. It will motivate you to go to your best local gourmet food store and try a fine olive oil (preferably from large tins, which offer you the chance to sample before buying). As you start to play with tasting them, you may be surprised to find an enormous variety of flavors and feel of the oils. Just as a fine wine changes its flavor based on the food you pair it with, olive oil has intricate and subtle flavors that create not-so-subtle effects when paired with different foods. And olive oil is not just for sautéing! I don’t use my fine olive oils for sautéing at all, but instead use them as a finishing oil atop dishes like steamed vegetables or cooked beans. This is where quality olive oil makes simple foods really come alive. You can start to play with the variety of flavored olive oils on one of my favorite bean salads made with French lentils. You may find it fun to see how the flavor of the salad changes subtly by using different oils. Enjoy!

French Lentil Salad

Serves 4

1 cup French lentils
2 ½ cups water
1 bay leaf
½ cup red or green grapes, cut into quarters
¼ cup feta cheese, cut into small cubes
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons minced red onion
2 tablespoons minced fresh mint
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon sea salt

Place lentils in a saucepan with the water and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, partially cover, and simmer until lentils are soft but still intact, 20 to 30 minutes. Drain well. Remove the bay leaf and spread on a platter to cool. Transfer the cooled lentils to a large mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and stir gently until thoroughly blended. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Read Annie Kay’s nutritional commentary: Beans, Beans, the Musical Fruit

Beans have a fabulous, health-enhancing combination of fiber and protein. The fiber in beans modulates the rate at which sugar is absorbed from the GI tract, creating satiety now and later. Higher-fiber diets also help regulate blood cholesterol.

But humans have difficulty digesting beans: Gas is a natural byproduct of eating this healthful plant protein. Gassiness happens because we are missing the enzymes to break down a number of the complex sugars in beans. These large sugars make their way into our colons, and our microflora (healthy gut bacteria) ferment the sugars, which creates gas.

However, several beans are lower in gas-forming sugars, and French green lentils are on that list, along with adzuki and mung beans. Other strategies for reducing gas from beans include rinsing the beans frequently during cooking, and cooking them with kombu, a seaweed that breaks down the complex sugars. You can also try increasing your bean intake slowly but regularly—for example, enjoy a small serving once per week, then slowly increase the frequency and serving size.

Find more delicious and nutritious recipes in Kripalu Recipes.