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Dinner Tonight: Lentil and Basmati Salad

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Instead of its usually role as a side dish, pillowy rice is the main feature in this Lentil and Basmati Salad. It has the important job of absorbing all the flavors of the South Asian influences on the ingredient list: tamarind, coconut, and cilantro. The pairing with lentils adds another layer of soft chewy texture (and heft) to the salad. Lime juice brings out the tanginess of the tamarind, and the coconut makes it delicately sweet. Complete in under 30 minutes, this salad heroes dinner on a night when you want bold flavor (and leftovers to bring for lunch the next day) without putting in a heroic amount of work. Which makes it perfect for dinner tonight.

Lentil and Basmati Salad with Tamarind, Coconut, and Cilantro
Lentil and Basmati Salad with Tamarind, Coconut, and Cilantro

Grocery List
Organized by area of the market

  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon black caraway seeds (also known as nigella seeds)
  • 1 cup basmati rice, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup du Puy lentils (also known as French lentils), rinsed and picked through
  • 1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons tamarind paste

We're assuming you already have salt, vegetable oil, and water, but if not, add them to your list too!

The Game Plan

About 30 minutes before dinner, start a pot of 2 1/4 cups water to boil. Add lentils and rice, cover the pot, and simmer for 25 minutes. Once water is evaporated, fluff with a fork and place in a large bowl to cool. While the rice and lentils are cooking, make the dressing: Warm 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet on medium heat. Add and toast the caraway seeds for about a minute (some of the seeds will pop!). Remove from heat and stir in the tamarind paste and 3 teaspoons water.


Just before sitting down, fold the dressing into the rice and lentil mixture, followed by the coconut and cilantro. Add in the lime juice and salt to taste, and serve warm or at room temperature.

See the full recipe here.