Lentils, a small but nutritionally mighty member of the legume family, are a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber. Not only do lentils help lower cholesterol, they are of special benefit in managing blood-sugar disorders since their high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising rapidly after a meal.

But this is far from all lentils have to offer. Lentils also provide good to excellent amounts of seven important minerals, our B vitamins, and protein — all with virtually no fat. The calorie cost of all this nutrition? Just 230 calories for a whole cup of cooked lentils. This tiny nutritional giant fills you up — not out.

We usually think of lentils in soups and stews, but this cold salad offering pair with a crisp white wine makes for a really nice change of pace.

Lentil Salad

2 1/4 c. (1 lb.) Le Puy (green) lentils

1 medium red onion, diced

1/2 c. finely diced carrots

1/2 c. dried currants, raisins, apricots

1/2 c. slivered almonds

1/3 c. capers

2 Tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley

Vinaigrette:

1/3 c. olive oil

1/4 c. apple cider vinegar

1 Tbsp. maple syrup

1 Tbsp. strong mustard

2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. pepper

1 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. turmeric

1/2 tsp. ground coriander

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1/2 tsp. ground cardamom

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

Rinse lentils well, drain. Place in a pot and cover with a 3 to 4 inches of water, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer. Check lentils for doneness after 15 minutes, but they should take about 20 minutes in total. You will know they are cooked if they still retain a slight tooth -- al dente. Do not overcook!

Meanwhile, make the dressing by placing all ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously to combine.

Finely dice red onion -- the salad is best if all the ingredients are about the same size. If using raisins, chop them roughly to make them a bit smaller, and do the same with the capers if they are large.

When the lentils are cooked, remove from heat, drain and place under cold running water to stop the cooking process. Once cooled slightly but still a little warm, place lentils in a large serving bowl and toss with dressing. Add other onion, capers, and currants. Add flat-leaf parsley just before serving.

Pair this with Lucas & Lewellen’s 2014 Santa Barbara County Pinot Grigio, grown in their temperate Los Alamos vineyard along San Antonio Creek, which flows to the ocean. Carefully tended in the vineyard and nurtured in the winery, these pinot grigio grapes produce the subtle aromas of lemon peel, lily flower, jasmine tea and pear. The wine is crisp with natural acidity developed in the grapes while growing in this cool climate. It is light and delicate with a bright finish.

Enjoy!

John David Finley is a freelance writer and author of the cookbook, "Sacred Meals from our Family Table," which features Santa Barbara County wines. He can be reached at sacredmeals@comcast.net.

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