The host of Top Chef and cookbook author says this humble dish kept her going when she was young and broke.
Photo: Inez & Vinoodh
The meal I really love is one that connects with different influences in my life—the blending of the East and West. It's Pondicherry Lentil Salad, made with small black lentils, apples, and peppers and garnished with fresh ginger and coconut. I came up with it when I was living in France after college. At the time, I had student loans to pay off and no money. I was modeling and living in an apartment with five other women. The dish was an easy way to eat healthfully and deliciously but inexpensively. I was very far from home, and it gave me solace and sustenance. (Related: How to Eat Healthy for Less Than $5 a Day)
If you look at the recipe, the parsley, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar don’t really go with the sesame oil, ginger, and coconut. But in my mind they do because they’re part of who I am.
This humble bowl of lentils has always meant the world to me. Though I no longer have to watch my pennies, I still return to the recipes I am emotionally anchored to. I think we all eat this way. At the end of the day, we are just looking for the connection of soul to tummy. (Related: Seriously Satisfying Soup Recipes That Bring the "Hygge" to Mealtime)
Photo: Inez & Vinoodh
Pondicherry Lentil Salad
- 2 cups beluga black lentils
- 1 Fuji apple, cored and sliced
- 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
- 1 large jalapeno pepper, diced
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- Juice of 1 1/2 ripe lemons
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup loosely packed, chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
- 1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
- Wash lentils and soak for 2 hours in tepid water; drain.
- In a deep pot, add 8 cups of water to lentils, bring to a boil, cover, and cook on low heat for 20 to 25 minutes. Rinse lentils with cold water and drain. Make sure lentils are cooked but firm, not mushy.
- In a large bowl, mix together lentils, apple, bell pepper, jalapeno, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and parsley. Stir and set aside in fridge.
- Just before serving, heat sesame oil on medium-high heat. When hot, roast ginger and coconut for a few minutes until golden and toasty. Sprinkle garnish over lentils and serve immediately.
Recipe from Tangy Tart Hot & Sweet: A World of Recipes for Every Day ($25, amazon.com) by Padma Lakshmi