A jar of dried lentils in the cupboard means a warm pot of lentil soup whenever the mood strikes. But it can also mean a batch of Indian dal, an interesting add-in for a salad, a snack of croquettes, and much more. Lentils grow inside long seed pods. When mature, the pods are broken open and the seeds are harvest. These seeds, aka lentils, can be eaten fresh, but we're more likely to find them dried. Lentils come in a wide range of colors, and they range can in flavor from sweet and mild to nutty and earthy.
As a member of the legume family, lentils are tiny protein powerhouses. They are also high in fiber and complex carbohydrates. In short, eating lentils does a body good.
Dried lentils are cooked much like beans, though they don't typically require soaking. Use a rough ratio of one cup of lentils to two cups of water, and simmer them until the lentils become tender. Shorter cooking times yield firm lentils useful for salads and stuffings. Longer cooking times make softer, creamier lentils. These are great for making soup or mashing into fritters.
For some ideas about how to cook lentils, take a look at these recipes: