The Shabbat Table – Love those lentils!

(Wikimedia Commons photo)

Good Shabbos, Shabbat Shalom! This week, in Parashat Toldot, we learn how Esau sells his birthright to his brother Jacob for a bowl of what is called red soup or lentil stew. After returning from a hunting trip, Esau is feeling hungry and faint. He sees his brother Jacob with a pot of lentil stew. Esau asks, “Jacob, may I have a bit of your stew, please. I am faint with hunger.”

“Yes, if you sell me your birthright,” answers Jacob. Esau stares at his brother and replies. “If I am going to die from hunger, what good is my birthright to me?” Esau then sells his birthright to Jacob.

Lentils come in a variety of colours—brown, green, yellow, red, or black. The brown and green varieties of lentils retain their shape after cooking, whereas red lentils become soft and mushy. Lentils are low in calories, rich in iron, folate, and magnesium, high in dietary fibre, and are an excellent source of protein. One cup of cooked lentils contains 230 calories and are virtually fat-free. This tiny nutritional giant fills you up—not out!

One cup of dried lentils needs about 30 minutes cooking time (no need to pre-soak) and yield about 2 cups when cooked. The older the legumes, the longer they will take to cook. A 19 oz/540 ml can of lentils also yields 2 cups.

Canned lentils are convenient, nutritious, and ready to use. However, they are more expensive than dried, and are generally higher in sodium. A quick trick is to rinse canned legumes well under cold running water to cut the amount of sodium in half. You can also buy no-salt added versions.

If you’re short on time, my recipe for Slow Cooker Lentil Vegetable Soup is quick prep, slow cook! Click here for the recipe:

Several years ago, Dafi Forer Kremer of Israel emailed me to ask if I would contribute a recipe for the unique cookbook she was compiling, The Melting Pot: Embarking on Israel’s Seventh Decade with Spiritual and Savory Servings, which reflects the myriad of unique Jewish voices and tastes from Israel and the world over.

There’s a recipe to match each week’s Torah portion plus an additional chapter for other Jewish and Israeli festivals, along with gorgeous colour photographs. Just as Israel has brought together every ethnic group, making for a vibrant and colourful tapestry, The Melting Pot has combined well-respected teachers and delicious dishes from across the globe, catering to the reader’s physical and spiritual needs. I contributed my recipe for Mock Chopped Liver, which is also delicious when made with lentils. Enjoy!



Adapted from Healthy Helpings by Norene Gilletz (Whitecap)


3 medium onions (do not peel)

1 1/2 cups cooked or canned chickpeas or lentils, rinsed and drained

2 Tbsp chopped almonds or walnuts

2 hard-boiled eggs

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tsp honey


  1. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Place unpeeled onions on a baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes, until soft. (Alternately, pierce onions in 3 or 4 places with a sharp knife; place on a plate and microwave on high for 6–8 minutes.) Cool slightly, then remove and discard peel.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process for 30 seconds, until finely chopped. If mixture seems dry, blend in a little water.
  3. Transfer to a serving dish, cover and refrigerate. Serve chilled.



Adapted from Healthy Helpings by Norene Gilletz (Whitecap)

Savour the flavour of ‘almost liver’ without the guilt or cholesterol!


2 cups red lentils, rinsed and drained

4 cups vegetable broth or water

1 Tbsp olive oil

2 large onions, chopped

3 or 4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp each dried basil, oregano and thyme

1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced

1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs plus 2 Tbsp to coat the pan

1/2 tsp Kosher or sea salt

Freshly ground pepper

2 tsp fresh lemon juice or balsamic vinegar

1 tsp Oriental sesame oil


  1. Cook lentils in broth or water until tender, about 25 minutes. Do not drain. Let cool, then mash.
  2. Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet. Add onions, garlic, and dried herbs. Saute on medium heat until brown, stirring often.
  3. Add to lentils along with remaining ingredients; mix well.
  4. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Spray a 9 x 4-inch loaf pan with non-stick spray. Sprinkle pan with 2 Tbsp crumbs, lightly coating bottom and sides of pan. Spread lentil mixture in pan.
  5. Bake, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, until set. When cool, unmold and refrigerate. Best served at room temperature.

Makes 12 slices. Leftovers will keep 3–4 days in the refrigerator. Freezing intensifies the flavour of the herbs.






2 cans (19 oz/540 ml each) lentils, rinsed and drained

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 red or yellow pepper, chopped

1 orange pepper, chopped

2 medium carrots, grated

5 or 6 green onions, chopped

1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

3 Tbsp lemon juice (preferably fresh)

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 tsp each chili powder, dry mustard and cumin


  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Season to taste.
  2. Cover and refrigerate. Serve chilled.

Makes 8 servings. Keeps in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Do not freeze.


Norene’s Notes:

  • Kidney Bean & Chickpea Salad: Instead of lentils, substitute 1 can of red kidney beans and 1 can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained.
  • Quick Couscous Salad: Omit lentils; substitute 2 cups of couscous. Add 4 cups of water or vegetable broth. Let stand for 10 minutes to absorb liquid. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
  • Switch it Up: Instead of chili powder, dry mustard, and cumin, add 3–4 Tbsp minced fresh basil. Add 1/2 cup chopped roasted red peppers and 1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes to any version of the above salad.