Lentils have long been a staple in culinary traditions around the world, and it's easy to see why. The delicious, affordable pulses are rich in plant-based protein and fiber—making them ideal for preparing a filling meal with little cost or effort. (Plus, the fiber is great for supporting digestion and gut health.) They're also the star ingredient in the below Pondicherry lentil salad recipe from Tangy Tart Hot & Sweet: A World of Recipes for Every Day ($18), the latest cookbook from Top Chef host and author Padma Lakshmi. It's just a sampling of the dozens of recipes in Lakshmi's cookbook, all of which play with flavors and cooking traditions from around the world.
"I love this salad because it’s so healthy, delicious, and easy to make," Lakshmi tells Well+Good. She says it's great served at room temperature or cold, making it ideal to make ahead for easy lunches. "I always double the recipe and sometimes have even served it as an appetizer course in butter lettuce cups for a beautiful first course full of plant-based protein," she says. Hungry yet? You will be soon. —Jessie Van Amburg, senior food editor
Pondicherry lentil salad
I named this salad after a town in South India that was heavily influenced by French colonization. I love the easy mix of Eastern and Western flavors that this recipe exemplifies. The salad is made with small black lentils similar to French puy lentils but can be made with any black lentils. Here I use lentils that are named beluga, after the caviar, because of their appearance and minuscule size, especially when compared to other lentils. I love the crispness of the apple and peppers mingling with the soft texture of the lentils. This is a great salad to take on a picnic, and especially handy if you’re serving vegetarians who need a bit of substance to their meal. The ginger and coconut roasted in sesame oil give it a richer flavor than most run-of-the-mill lentil salads.
2 cups beluga black lentils
1 Fuji apple, cored and diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 large jalapeño pepper, diced
1/8 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Juice of 1 1/2 ripe lemons
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup loosely packed, chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 1/2 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1. Wash the lentils and soak them for 2 hours in tepid water; drain.
2. In a deep pot, add 8 cups of water to the lentils, bring to a boil, cover, and cook on low heat for 20 to 25 minutes. Rinse the lentils with cold water and drain. Make sure the lentils are cooked but firm, not mushy.
3. In a large bowl, mix together the lentils, apple, bell pepper, jalapeño, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and parsley. Stir and set aside in the fridge.
4. Just before serving, heat the sesame oil on medium-high heat. When hot, roast the ginger and coconut for a few minutes until golden and toasty. Sprinkle this garnish over the lentils and serve immediately.
Recipe excerpted from Tangy Tart Hot & Sweet: A World of Recipes for Every Day by Padma Lakshmi. Copyright © 2021. Available from Hachette Go, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
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