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Rochester Sweet and Sour Lentils

By Jean Lindsay


Lentils are nourishing and easy to prepare... one of the best values for your food budget. | Photo credit: sweetbeetandgreenbean,

Lentils are nourishing and easy to prepare... one of the best values for your food budget. | Photo credit: sweetbeetandgreenbean, 


Here is a recipe for sweet and sour lentils. This inexpensive, delicious lentil dish is easy to make — the recipe was obtained from a friend from the Rochester Zen Center in Rochester, New York.

Here is a bit of history about the Center:

Founded in 1966 by the late Roshi Philip Kapleau, author of The Three Pillars of Zen, the Rochester Zen Center is one of the oldest and largest organizations dedicated to the practice of Zen Buddhism in this country. In 1986, Bodhin Kjolhede was formally installed as Roshi Kapleau's Dharma-successor and Abbot of the Center. Roshi Kjolhede continues to lead the Zen Center today.

The Zen Center's activities include introductory workshops, daily meditation sessions, a residential training program, and retreats at the Zen Center's Chapin Mill Retreat Center near Batavia, New York. Affiliate groups and sister centers are located in Madison, Chicago, Cleveland, Mexico City, Stockholm, Berlin, Helsinki, and Auckland.


Rochester Sweet and Sour Lentils

Into a large kettle, stock pot, or crock pot, put the washed dried lentils with the soup stock (or plain water), bay leaves, garlic power, and tamari. Bring to a boil. Once the stock/water is boiling, add the minced onions. Bring to a second boil. Cover, simmer 20 to 25 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix together the oil, vinegar, honey, cloves, allspice, and ginger. Add to the pot of lentils after they have cooked for 25 minutes.

Cover pot and slow cook (lower stove temp so that mixture is at a light boil) for 1 to 3 hours, stirring often. The batch of lentils can also be put in a low oven (300 deg. F) for 1 to 3 hours (be sure pot is oven-proof).

NOTE: this lentil recipe makes enough to feed a small army — a battalion!

Leftovers make a wonderful soup. Pureé and add canned tomatoes, water, squash if you have it, and chives.


About lentils:

Lentils are legumes and are related to peas. They are one of the best and most inexpensive vegetable sources of iron, and are rich in proteins, dietary fiber, folate, vitamin B1, and minerals. They are mentioned a number of times in the Old Testament and are consumed throughout Europe, Asia, North Africa, and India. Consumption in the United States is growing. They are believed to be one of the oldest cultivated legumes — seeds have been found in Egyptian tombs dating back to 2400 B.C. In Jewish mourning tradition, they're considered a food for mourners, together with boiled eggs. Their round shape symbolizes the life cycle from birth to death.

Lentils, when combined with rice or bits of meat, produce a cost-efficient, complete protein. They are a favorite in vegetarian diets and many ethnic dishes. Lentils have a distinctively earthy flavor and are tremendously economical.


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Sources:, Lentils Origin and History (, "Lentil" (