I’ve been to my fair share of holiday gatherings as the lone vegetarian. I know people get really excited about their turkey/ham/roast/whathaveyou, and spend a lot of time and energy – and money too – to make it fantastic. And I can relate, to a certain extent; even though I’ve been a vegetarian since the age of 14, I still enjoy the scent of turkey cooking, because it smells like holidays to me.
Although I understand folks’ connection to their festive meats, I’m one of many who don’t partake. If you don’t ever cook vegetarian and therefore get anxious thinking about that person coming to your holiday dinner who isn’t going to eat the pièce de résistance, here’s a very easy and nutritious main dish that we in my family (veggies and non-veggies alike) have loved for a long time. It’s delicious, festive, and very hard to eff up.
Lentil Cheese Pie – originally from Crank’s Restaurant cookbook.
- 1 cup red lentils (they’re actually orange)
- 1 large onion
- 2 Tbsp butter (or vegetable oil)
- 1 cup grated cheddar (we like old)
- 1 tsp (or a bit more) seasoning – we use oregano, basil, coriander, thyme, and/or sage
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs (we use whole wheat)
- salt & pepper to taste
It’s a good idea to rinse the lentils, though it’s not a huge deal if you don’t. Then cook the lentils at a gentle boil in 1.75 – 2.25 cups of water (I usually use about 2), until all the liquid is absorbed. This is the one part I have effed up: don’t let them burn. Stir them regularly. They should look approximately like this when you’re done:
While the lentils are cooking, dice the onion and sauté it in the butter or oil until transparent. (If you accidentally caramelize it, it’s okay!) Then combine the two ingredients, and add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. (If you accidentally put in way too much cheese, it’s okay! Same with the seasonings, up to a point.)
Press the mixture into a greased 9″ pie pan. Bake at 375F for 30 minutes. (If you accidentally overcook it by like 20 minutes, it’s okay! I have absolutely done that and it was still delicious.) Slice and serve warm.
Seriously, this dish smells and tastes awesome and is THAT EASY. You should go for it.