10/20/2014 08:58 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Meatless Monday: Food Day Puts Real Food On The Menu

Come join the party this Friday, October 24, the fourth annual Food Day . Sponsored by the Center for Science in the Public Interest and partnering with Slow Food USA, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Organic Farming Research Foundation, and a hundred other standup organizations, Food Day is a party to take back our food system and remind us it's possible to eat in a way that isn't wack.

Food Day is modeled on Earth Day, which began kind of half-assed and unfocused in 1970 but is now a day of global action and awareness. Earth Day generated /the creation of the EPA, inspiring the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act and other initiatives that have made our world better to live in. Food Day draws on some of that vintage hippie activism. It's real get-out-in-the-street stuff, rather than a virtual FB startup. We've had enough with virtual eating. This year, Food Day's slogan is, "Real Food, Just Food," embracing all aspects of our food system from public health to animal welfare. You can do it all with one single choice -- eat less meat. Jobs, health, education, the environment and ethics all converge at the end of our forks.

We've reached a tipping point, where the importance of what we eat and how we source it is on America's radar. This past weekend, I participated in Seed Food and Wine, Miami's first-ever plant-based food festival and next week, will be attending the James Beard Foundation's food conference, "Health & Food: Is Better Food the Prescription for a Healthier America?" Spoiler alert -- yes it, is.

It's going to take more than a conference, more than a festival, more than a day to implement a real, healthy food system, from drill-down policy change to grassroots initiative. It's going to take all of us -- politicians, farmers, chefs, you and me. As Arlo Guthrie put it in "Alice's Restaurant," you wanna end war and stuff, you gotta sing loud. Food Day allows us all to come together with a united voice and eat real food, too.

Food Day's website lists a thousand-plus events happening across the country, in restaurants, in schools, at universities, from big-ass events to shared home-cooked meals. Attend. Eat. Party like the planet and your life depends on it. Because it does.


Pasta With Lentils and Kale

I get all swoony over real food recipes like this, with origins that go back generations, if not centuries. It's food that's primal, rather than processed and makes use of the ingredients at hand and in the season. This is something every Italian nonna knows, and this cheap, easy, autumnal-as-hell recipe provides a delicious refresher course for all of us.

Serves 4.

1 cup lentils
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for drizzling
1 pinch red pepper flakes
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped fine
1 stalk celery, chopped fine
2 to 3 fresh, ripe end-of-season tomatoes or 1 15-ounce can tomatoes, diced
1 bunch kale torn into bite sized pieces -- lacinato, also known as black kale or dinosaur kale is particularly nice but any variety will do
8 ounces whole grain pasta
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Rinse and drain lentils. Bring 3 cups of water to boil in a medium-sized pot. Add lentils. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, or until lentils are just tender and most of the water is absorbed. Lentils may be made a day or two ahead and kept covered and refrigerated. Bring them out to come to room temperature as you put together the rest of dish.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pinch of pepper flakes. When they start to sizzle, add the minced garlic and chopped onion and celery. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, or until vegetables soften. Reduce heat to medium and continue cook another 5 minutes.
Stir in diced tomatoes. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling water according to package directions. Cook until barely al dente. Drain.

Add kale by the handful to tomatoes and vegetables. Stir, cooking about 5 minutes or until the kale is just tender and still bright green. Curly kale takes a little longer to cook than lacinato kale. You want it wilted, not defeated. Stir in the lentils. Taste sauce and add sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Return pasta to the pot. Pour in tomatoes, lentils and kale. Stir to combine and taste again for salt.

Serve with a drizzle with additional olive oil, if desired.

Adapted and updated from the original Meatless Monday post which ran October 17, 2011.