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We're celebrating Meatless Mondays with balanced, delicious meal plans. We hope you'll join us -- whether you're vegetarian all the time or just here and there.
Today: A dinner inspired by the principle that a little bit of everything is better than a lot of one thing.
You've probably had this experience: You're browsing the menu at a restaurant and you realize that only the starters are vegetarian-friendly. Don't be upset -- you've just struck dinner gold. While your friends carve away at a piece of chicken or a cut of steak, you will happily flit between between soup, salad, and, if you're lucky, flatbread.
Tonight's menu is inspired by the principle that sometimes a little bit of everything is better than a lot of one thing. This meal may look like two appetizers, but it has everything you need: You'll get your fix of vegetables from a big kale salad (it's 2014 and kale's not going anywhere); starch from golden polenta cakes; and, because this is dinner and you're not joking around, there's also protein packed into lentils and tangy goat cheese.
Serves 6, with leftover polenta cakes
1 cup lentils
2 cups whole milk
1 cup polenta
1 yellow onion
1/4 cup apricot preserves (or any fruit preserves you have)
1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 bunches kale
1 head red cabbage
2 ounces of goat cheese
It's likely that you already have salt, butter, olive oil, and lemon juice in your kitchen. If not, add those to the list, too.
1. Place the lentils in a small saucepan and cover with 3 to 4 inches of water. Bring to a boil, add a pinch of salt, then let the lentils simmer for 20 to 25 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, bring the milk to a boil with 2 cups of water and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Slowly whisk in the polenta, then turn the heat to low and whisk for 5 minutes, until the polenta is smooth and creamy. Spread into a 9- by 9-inch baking dish and set aside to cool.
3. Add 1 tablespoon of butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a skillet over medium-low heat. Sauté the yellow onion, sliced, until soft, golden, and caramelized, about 20 to 25 minutes. Season with salt as it cooks.
4. While the onions and lentils are cooking, pan-fry the polenta: Cut it into 3-inch squares, then cook in 1 tablespoon of olive oil for about 2 minutes on each side, until slightly browned and crusty.
5. Make the salad for the dressing. Whisk together 1/4 cup of olive oil, preserves, apple cider vinegar, 1 1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and a pinch of pepper.
6. Remove the ribs and stems from the kale and chop it finely. Massage it in a large mixing bowl with 6 tablespoons of the dressing until it has a slightly wilted texture.
7. Drain the lentils and add them to kale, along with 1 cup of the red cabbage, shredded. Add another 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette.
8. Finish the polenta cakes by topping them with caramelized onions, crumbled goat cheese, and a drizzle of honey. Bon appétit!
Photos by Sarah Shatz and James Ransom