meatless mondays

One of my first cookbooks was the Moosewood Cookbook. I was in high school and a sudden vegetarian and someone, maybe my mom, bought me Mollie Katzen's book. It was a revelation at the time--one of the first collections of only meatless meals. 

I have since lost that book and I am no longer a vegetarian but lately we have been trying to abstain from meat one day a week. Meatless Mondays is part of our attempt to structure weekday dinners (ie Taco Tuesday). At first Nate protested this rule. Then he found out that pasta is not a meat. Now he's cool with it. But it does remain a challenge to come up with new and filling veggie dinners. I think Michael is secretly hoping I get stumped and he can just eat cheese.

While googling what to make with the bag of green lentils that I bought on a whim at a health food store, I came across one of Katzen's humble recipes from the Moosewood Cookbook. It seemed odd that such a relic was even online. But the simple lentil chili was a perfect starting point, and with a few flavor additions, turned out a hearty, meat-like chili that satisfied us omnivores and even became lunch for the next few days. The trick is lots of creative seasoning and a heavy dose of toppings. Mack even turned the toppings into a meal in itself and Nate, of course, had pasta. 

Moosewood Lentil Chili (modified)

2 cups dried lentils–any kind
3 to 4 cups water
One 8 oz can tomatoes
1 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoons minced garlic
1 cups chopped onion
2 to 3 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons tomato paste
4 tablespoons vinegar
1/2 can kidney beans
1 tsp hot sauce
1 tsp Yeast flakes
Fresh black pepper and crushed red pepper

Optional Toppings:
yogurt or sour cream
grated cheddar
minced fresh parsley and/or cilantro

1.   Soak lentils in water to cover by an inch for 2-3 hours. Drain. (optional)

2. Place lentils and water in a large soup pot or Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, partially cover, and lower the heat to a simmer for about 30 minutes.

2.   Add tomatoes, cumin, paprika, thyme, garlic, and onions. Stir, mostly cover again, and let it cook for another 30 minutes or so. Check the water level as it cooks, and add water as needed, to prevent dryness. Stir from the bottom every several minutes during the cooking.

3.   Add salt and tomato paste. Stir and continue to simmer about 10 minutes.

4.   Stir in the vinegar, beans, hot sauce, yeast, black pepper, and crushed red pepper, adjusting the seasonings to taste. Serve hot, with some or all of the optional toppings.