Meatless Monday: Red Lentil Salad

Turn quick-cooking, inexpensive and protein-packed lentils into an easy dinner salad.
By: Michelle Buffardi
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Meatless Monday is a global movement, a way of life. It’s not a campaign to turn everyone in the world vegetarian or vegan; in fact, many involved are meat-lovers. Eating less meat has been proven to reduce the risk of disease, curb obesity and has important environmental impacts, too. Will you join us in giving up meat, just for one day a week?

Dried beans can take a long time to cook (dried black beans, chick peas, kidney, etc.), but lentils are a surprisingly quick-cooking legume. They're also a great, healthy addition to a vegetarian's pantry; lentils provide protein and complex carbohydrates, and they're full of fiber to keep you satisfied longer. Plus they're super inexpensive, so you get major bang for your buck ( less than a buck in most cases.)

A cheap, healthy, filling, vegetarian protein source? Sounds like a dream come true, right? But how do they taste? Lentils taste bean-like, but are pretty mild and take on the flavor of the sauce or spices they're cooked in. Their texture is pretty bean-y but they hold their disc-like shape well (unless they're cooked for a long time, like in lentil soup). They're a staple in Indian and Mediterranean cooking and work well in stews, soups, curries and salads made with grains, vegetables or just lentils.

Bal Arneson's Indian-spiced lentil salad is served on a bed of lettuce leaves for you to eat the old-fashioned way: with silverware. But you can use the lettuce leaves as wraps instead. Tuck the lentil salad into individual leaves and eat them with your hands like little burritos.

1/2 cup whole almonds
1 cup dried red lentils
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
2 teaspoons minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon cardamom seeds
A pinch of coriander seeds
Juice of 1 lime
1 cup grated carrot
1 cup grated radish
1/2 cup finely chopped red pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
A pinch salt and pepper
8 Boston lettuce leaves

Toast the almonds in a heavy skillet over medium heat until they are golden and very aromatic, 5 to 6 minutes. Roughly chop them and set aside.

Put the lentils in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Place over medium-high heat, bring to a boil and cook until they are just barely tender and still quite red, about 2 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water to halt the cooking process. Shake out all excess water, and then put the lentils into a large bowl.

Pour the oil into a skillet and, when it is hot, add the ginger and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the garam masala, cumin, mustard, cardamom and coriander seeds and cook for 1 minute. Add the lime juice, and then pour over the lentils. Then add the carrots, radishes, red peppers, cilantro and mint. Season with salt and pepper and toss well to combine.

Line a serving platter with overlapping lettuce leaves. Mound the lentil salad over them. Sprinkle with toasted almonds and serve.

More Meatless Lentil Recipes:
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