Why meatless on Mondays? Not only is eating less animal protein a healthy diet choice, but curbing your meat consumption can have a significant environmental impact too. In 2006 the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reported that animal agriculture accounted for a full 19 percent of greenhouse gases—more than the transportation sector. Best of all, with recipes like these, going meatless can be a delicious weekly habit.
I’ve spent the last several months building a cooking school in an old farmhouse in Stockton, N.J. I picked the location because it’s on a working farm, and I very much like the idea of building a food and cooking learning center at the source of food and cooking. Also, because it is in New Jersey—the Garden State.
I know what you’re thinking. New Jersey? The state of Snooki and overfed, most-likely-crooked politicians? Well, it has those too. That’s too bad, but Jersey is famous in kinder circles for tomatoes, corn, and asparagus. These are the reasons I am here. This week I’ll plant a kitchen garden that will feed the cooking school students all summer. We will plant loads of herbs and all sorts of fruits and vegetables. But I am most excited about the tomatoes.
Why? A couple years ago, The New York Times quoted an expert saying this: “There is no tomato in this country or in Italy that’s as good as the New Jersey tomato. Some of the characteristics might be good, but there’s nothing that can match it overall.” That’s why. I can’t wait until August.
Until then, I am developing recipes that highlight perfect tomatoes so when my students pick their own from the garden and we start cooking, I’ll be ready for them.
Maybe you live in a part of the country where you already have fresh tomatoes. If so, start making this lentil and tomato salad now. If not, think about planning a trip to the Garden State to come visit us in August, when you can enjoy the world’s best tomato.
Lentil and Tomato Salad
4 cups water
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups French lentils
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 small shallot, minced
Pinch sugar (optional)
1 pound ripe tomatoes, sliced
2 tablespoons fresh dill fronds
In a medium saucepan, bring the salt and water to a boil. Whisk in the lentils, and boil until tender but not falling apart, 12 to 18 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk the oil, vinegar, shallot, sugar (if using), 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a serving bowl.
When the lentils are cooked, drain them and toss with the vinaigrette while still warm. (This lets them suck up the flavors of the dressing.) Let the lentils cool to room temperature, then fold in the tomatoes and dill. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.