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'Top Chef' Host Padma Lakshmi's Favorite Cheap, Healthy Meal



Photo: Inez & Vinoodh

The meal is one of the two most influential influences in my life – the blending of the East and West. It's Pondicherry Lentil Salad, made with small black lentils, apples, and peppers and garnished with fresh ginger and coconut. I was in France after college. At the time, I had student loans to pay off and no money. I am modeling and living in apartment with five other women. The dish is easy to eat healthily and deliciously inexpensively. I was very far from home, and it gave me solace and sustenance. (Related: How to Eat Healthy for Less Than $ 5 a Day)

If you look at the recipe, the parsley, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar do not really go with the sesame oil, ginger, and coconut. But in my mind they do because they're part of who I am.

This humble bowl of lentils has always meant the world to me. Though I have no longer to watch my pennies, I still return to the recipes I am emotionally anchored to. I think we all eat this way. At the end of the day, we are just looking for the connection of soul to tummy. (Related: Seriously Satisfying Soup Recipes That Bring the "Hygge" to Mealtime)

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<p> <em> Photo: Inez & Vinoodh </em></p>
<h3> Pondicherry Lentil Salad </h3>
<p><em> Serves: 6 </em></p>
<p> <strong> Ingredients </strong></p>
<ul>
<li> 1<div class=

cups of black lentils
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1 large jalapeno pepper, diced
  • 1/3 cup of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Juice of 1 1/2 ripe lemons
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup loosely packed, chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh minced ginger
  • 1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • Directions

    1. Wash lentils and soak for 2 hours in tepid water; drain.
    2. In a deep pot, add 8 cups of water to lentils, bring to a boil, cover, and co ok on low heat for 20 to 25 minutes. Rinse lentils with cold water and drain.
    3. In a large bowl, mix together lentils, apple, bell pepper, jalapeno, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and parsley. Stir and set aside in fridge.
    4. Just before serving, heat sesame oil on medium-high heat. When hot, roast ginger and coconut for a few minutes until golden and toasty. Sprinkle garnish over lentils and serve immediately.

    Tangy Tart Hot & Sweet: A World of Recipes for Every Day ($ 25, amazon.com) by Padma Lakshmi


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