Brown lentils are the kind that come in packages in the pasta and grains section in the grocery store. Green lentils are the kind that come in boxes in upscale or gourmet markets. Both can be found in bins in markets that carry bulk grains and legumes. The taste difference between the two is subtle: I find the green lentils nuttier, the brown lentils a bit less flavorful. There are also texture differences: The green lentils are firmer and tend to remain individual, so they’re the better choice for salad. Brown lentils are starchier and tend to mash more easily into a purée. An important difference to note, however, is that for salad the lentils, brown or green, cook for a mere one minute in the pressure cooker, whereas lentils destined for soup need five minutes to soften.
Yield: Makes about 2½ cups
1 cup dried brown or green lentils
2 cups water
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1. Rinse the lentils and place them in the pressure cooker with the water and oil. Lock on the lid and bring to pressure over high heat about 5 minutes.
If using for salad, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 1 minute.
If using for soup, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit for 5 minutes to finish cooking.
2. With the steam vent pointed away from your face, gently release any remaining pressure. Drain and rinse briefly under cool water. Use right away or store in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 3 days.
Red lentils are a delight to behold, wondrous in their red-orange color that is not often matched in the world of vegetables, except maybe for some of the heirloom tomato or beet varieties. I use them as a salad with barely blanched green peas, fresh parsley, and a seupç con of olive oil. I also use them to perk up a main plate dish that cries out for a bit of color. In any case, I never cook them in the pressure cooker because in my experience, red lentils are ready to drain and cool almost the very minute they come to a boil on the stove top.