Red Lentil and Spinach Dal

I admit it, I'm biased. My nickname is Beanstalk. I have actually developed a pretty widely known reputation for loving legumes. Beans, lentils, peanuts -- it's all good. They're also super-sustainable, packed with protein and nutrients at a lower environmental cost. Plant-based protein is far more efficient in terms of land and water use. In fact, "15x more protein can be produced on any given area of land with plants, rather than animals." So, keep soaking those beans and don't give up on that beautiful lump of peanut butter on the end of your spoon, just yet.

In efforts of being more and more plant-based in diet, I've been stocking up on different types of beans and legumes.  I'm probably one of the few people who will find entertainment in reading through a Rancho Gordo catalog, but it'll be an odd day when I don't get excited about a delivery of cow-speckled Vaquero beans. Lately I've been using my Instant Pot to quick-cook beans after a night of soaking, but there are some legumes that are just so low-maintenance they don't need any of that process to cook beautifully: tonight, we eat red lentils. 

Red lentils are super-versatile, and are not guilty of the sometimes-polarizing grit of brown or black lentils (personally, I enjoy that texture too). Good way to introduce a lentil skeptic into the lentil universe.

This recipe comes from Feed Me Phoebe, and makes for a great weeknight meal. This one sold me on the delicious, rich flavor of full-fat coconut milk, and the complex flavors of Garam Masala. I use it every chance I get. That and za'atar -- those are my two jump-on-every-chance kind of spice mixes.

One truly plant-based trick would be to avoid using oil by doing the initial sauté with just a little bit of water (a tablespoon or two) in the bottom of the pot. This helps to avoid the sticking and burning of onions, ginger, peppers, and so forth, and leaves room for adding more as the water evaporates or as needed.