Marge Perry Newsday columnist Marge Perry

Marge Perry, Newsday's weekly 3 Simple columnist, also writes, broadcasts, teaches and speaks about cooking, food and nutrition.

TIP French du Puy lentils hold their shape best; red lentils barely keep their shape at all, and brown or green lentils hold their shape fairly well.



1 cup quick-cooking brown rice

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon canola oil, divided

2 cups thinly sliced onion

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3/4 teaspoon salt, divided

1 tablespoon finely minced ginger

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup red lentils

1 teaspoon tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 (5-ounce) bag baby spinach

1. Cook rice according to package directions.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium high. Add the onion and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer about half the onions to a small bowl.

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3. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 teaspoon oil in a saucepan over medium high; add ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Add lentils, tomato paste and 3 cups water; bring to a boil; reduce heat and gently simmer until tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt.

4. Add coriander and cumin to onions remaining in the skillet and cook 1 minute over medium heat. Add spinach and cook, tossing, until it is wilted and bright green, about 1 1/2 minutes. Stir into lentils.

5. Place rice in the bottom of each of 4 bowls; top with lentils and garnish with reserved onions.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutritional analysis for each serving 430 calories, 19 g protein, 76 g carbohydrates, 12 g fiber, 7 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 505 mg sodium

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6 slices center-cut bacon

1 pint grape tomatoes, halved

1 cup du Puy (French green) lentils

1 carrot, cut into 1/4-inch dice

2 ribs celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice

1/4 cup parsley leaves

4 (1/2-inch-thick) slices whole-grain Italian bread, toasted

2 tablespoons canola mayonnaise

1. Cook bacon in Dutch oven until crisp; transfer to plate lined with paper towels. Crumble when cool.

2. Add tomatoes to pot and cook until they are wilted but still hold their shape, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

3. Add lentils, carrot, celery and 21/4 cups water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until tender, about 30 minutes.

4. Gently combine with crumbled bacon, tomatoes and add parsley.

5. Toast bread; spread with mayonnaise. Spoon lentils over toast.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutritional analysis for each serving 348 calories, 19 g protein, 51 g carbohydrates, 19 g fiber, 10 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 390 mg sodium



1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cups chopped onion

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice

1/2 cup lentils

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 bunch escarole, coarsely chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons grated Parmesan

1. Heat oil in soup pot set over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 4 minutes. Add tomatoes and 4 cups water and bring to a boil. Add sweet potatoes, lentils and thyme and bring back to a boil. Immediately reduce heat and simmer 22 to 25 minutes, until lentils and potatoes are tender.

2. Stir in the escarole and salt and cook 5 to 7 minutes longer, until greens are tender.

3. Sprinkle with Parmesan.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutritional for each serving 292 calories, 13 g protein, 49 g carbohydrates, 16g fiber, 5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 878mg sodium