Ottolenghi. Need I say more?
I think a lot of people, whether or not they're really into food, tend to think of a heavily plant-based diet in terms of deprivation. What, no cheeseburgers? But for us, it's about exploring the incredible variety of lusty, gorgeous vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and whole grains that both taste wonderful and make you feel fabulous.
I've been discovering all sorts of new inspirations for that kind of cooking and eating, but I can't think of a better one than Yotam Ottolenghi. He and his restaurants are not vegetarian — but man, does that guy have a way with vegetables.
Exhibit A: Ottolenghi spiced red lentils.
- 2 cups red lentils
- 3 cups water
- 1 bunch cilantro (3 1/2 cups)
- 1 large onion
- 6 garlic cloves
- 3-inch piece fresh ginger
- 1 Tablespoon black mustard seeds
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon ground sweet paprika
- 10 curry leaves
- 3 1/2 cups peeled chopped tomatoes, fresh or canned
- 1 Tablespoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek (optional)
- Pinch of asafetida (optional)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 Tablespoons butter (optional)
- Juice of 1/2 lime or lemon
- Rinse the lentils well under running water, then place them in a bowl with the water and soak for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, finely chop the cilantro (including stems), onion, and garlic, and grate the ginger. Set the cilantro aside.
- Place the mustard seeds in a 5-quart Dutch oven or other pot with a heavy bottom, and cook over medium heat until they begin to pop. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, and olive oil. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Add the ground coriander, cumin, turmeric, paprika, and curry leaves, and continue cooking, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes.
- Add the lentils and their soaking water, the tomatoes, honey, fenugreek, and salt, and stir to blend. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the lentils are fully cooked.
- Stir in the butter, lemon or lime juice, and cilantro. Serve hot.
Adapted from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi.