Like so many vegetarian entrees that I am coming to love, this one will not win any beauty contests. And there is something very satisfying about that-- food as substance rather than form. I have never been a fan of food that's prettier than it tastes. I'd rather go to a restaurant that pays attention to procuring fresh, healthy and sustainable ingredients instead of slavishly arranging sub-par ingredients on the plate.
Probably part of the challenge of helping vegetarian food reach the masses is making it look more appealing. Fresh ingredients are beautiful, and finding way to entice people shouldn't be too big of a challenge. That being said, the photo of this loaf is probably not going to drive people to put their steak knife down. But the flavor was spot on, and eaten with rice it provides a complete protein via complementary protein sources.
Granted, there is still some confusion as to whether vegetarians need to eat certain combinations of food in the same meal, or if it's sufficient just to generally eat a varied diet. The creator of the idea of complementary proteins now believes that a varied diet will provide sufficient protein, as do the vast majority of nutritionists. But, still, you can't go wrong with rice and beans.
Equally as important, this is an affordable meal to make. So often, eating healthy food seems out of reach, but beans are an inexpensive way to eat well. I used fresh mushrooms, which takes the cost up, but canned mushrooms would be a fine stand-in, especially since all the ingredients are being cooked anyway.
1 1/2 c dried lentils
2 carrots, sliced finely into disks
1 TB vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely chopped or grated
16 oz mushrooms (I used a mix of cremini and white)
1/2 c chopped roasted red pepper
1 TB thyme
2 TB Worcestershire
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper to taste
Spray a 9x5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Set aside. Preheat oven to 450.
Place lentils in a pot with water to cover by an inch. Add 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil. Turn heat down and allows lentils to simmer for about 30 minutes. Add carrots, and simmer for an additional 10-15 minutes. Drain well, and set aside.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Saute onions for about 10 minutes, until soft. Add mushrooms, and saute until mushrooms have released all their liquid and mushrooms almost stick to pan. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine lentil mixture with onions and mushrooms and red pepper. Season with thyme, cumin, Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Add egg, and combine all ingredients. Spoon mixture into loaf pan. Bake at 450 for 30 minute, or until loaf starts to pull away from sides of pan. Serves 4.