When it comes to days of the week it’s no secret that Monday ranks pretty far down on the list for a lot of people, particularly those of us who work a standard 5-day week. You spent the weekend relaxing, socializing, and maybe indulging in one too many cocktails and staying under the covers for a couple of extra hours to sleep it off. Now your internal clock is out of whack so you hit snooze a few extra times and got stuck with the bad bike in spin class, missed your train, spilled coffee on your computer, and accidentally copied all your professional contacts on a personal e-mail.
Sound about right?
My own weekends are actually pretty tame, and Saturday and Sunday look an awful lot like my workdays, yet for some reason Mondays are still rough for me. So after I’ve made it through the day I treat myself to a beautiful, nourishing, home-cooked meal. It ends things on a high note, and I head into the remainder of the week feeling balanced and restored. I was a vegetarian for more than 20 years and I still eat a largely plant-based diet so I think it’s fantastic that the Meatless Monday trend really caught on. I honor it every week, so this is the first of what I imagine will be many, many Meatless Monday posts. Though I’m featuring it on a Monday, this gorgeous meal is worthy of a weekend or special occasion dinner. Earthy lentils and mushrooms, sweet roasted carrots, silky parsnip puree and herbaceous carrot-top pesto come together in a delicious Autumn dish that’s bound to make your Monday better.
How beautiful are these vegetables? Monday is looking better already.
You want to puree the parsnips just until glossy and silky. As with all starchy vegetables, try not to over-work them or they’ll get unpleasantly gluey.
Heads up: This dish includes the Carrot Top Pesto I featured in a post last week. You can find the recipe here.
- For Carrots and Mushrooms:
- 15 ml (1 Tbsp) extra virgin olive oil
- 15 ml (1 Tbsp) aged balsamic vinegar or balsamic reduction*
- 7-8 small sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped and stems discarded
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- Scant ½ tsp smoked paprika
- Several grinds of black pepper
- 1 lb small organic carrots (about 1 oz each), scrubbed and halved lengthwise
- 12 oz mixed mushrooms, cleaned and cut into 1-inch pieces
- For Lentils:
- 4 oz (½ cup) dried Beluga (black) lentils, rinsed and picked over
- ¼ tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1 medium clove garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
- 1 small bay leaf
- Vegetable stock or water
- 5 ml (1 tsp) sherry vinegar
- 15 ml (1 Tbsp) extra virgin olive oil
- For parsnip puree:
- 1 lb parsnips, scrubbed, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 medium garlic clove, peeled and lightly crushed
- 240 ml (1 cup) cashew milk (or regular milk if you're not dairy-free)
- 15 ml (1 Tbsp) olive oil or melted butter
- Kosher salt
- For serving:
- Carrot Top Pesto
- Optional: minced chives, carrot fronds or parsley
- Roast carrots and mushrooms: Preheat oven to 425F. In a large bowl combine olive oil, balsamic, thyme leaves, salt, paprika and pepper. Add carrots and mushrooms and toss/rub to coat with seasoning. Arrange the vegetables in a single layer on one or two large baking sheets, and roast for about 20 minutes or until vegetables are browned in spots and carrots are easily pierced with the tines of a fork. (If using larger carrots they’ll take longer to cook. To shorten cooking time, cut each half lengthwise again to make them thinner.)
- Cook lentils: While vegetables are roasting, add lentils to a small saucepan along with kosher salt, crushed garlic clove, bay leaf, and stock or water to cover the lentils by one inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a bare simmer and cover partially with a lid. Simmer lentils just until tender but still toothsome, about 20 minutes. Drain lentils, discarding garlic clove and bay leaf. Toss lentils with sherry vinegar and olive oil, and season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.
- Make parsnip puree: While lentils are cooking add parsnips, garlic and milk to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover with a lid, and cook until parsnips are tender, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer parsnips and garlic to blender. Add about two thirds of the cooking liquid and ¼ teaspoon salt. Blend until smooth, adding more cooking liquid as necessary to achieve desired consistency. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil or butter and more salt to taste if desired, and puree just until silky and glossy. Don’t over-process the parsnips or you may end up with wallpaper paste.
- If you haven't made the Carrot Top Pesto already, now would be a great time to do it.
- Serve: Divide parsnip puree, lentils and roasted vegetables into four servings and distribute evenly among plates. Dollop with carrot top pesto, and garnish with minced chives, carrot fronds or parsley if desired.
If you’re not vegan and want to add a little extra protein to your meal, top with a fried egg!