Salad days are here
It’s officially summer. To celebrate, it’s become muggy and unsettled, with the threat of storms all week. Hubby and I rang in the solstice at a Pink Floyd (cover band) concert in an open air amphitheatre, under the (bright side of) the moon. Summer lends itself naturally to salads. Fresh, local produce has begun to pop up in farmer’s markets and roadside stands. Asparagus has had a heyday, and strawberries are everywhere. I’ve heard rumours of cherries, too. And then there are the abundant greens, hothouse peppers and tomatoes that have been grown in-province, garlic scapes, herbs…
Thinking outside the bowl
The thing is, I can tire quickly of lettuce based salads. And I need more to fill me up. I am working on cutting back on… well, a lot of things, for health reasons. I’m not dieting. But I am taking a hard look at what I eat and making changes to replace unhealthy foods with healthier options. And I need to keep from getting bored and hungry. So salads like this one fill me up and provide a lot of really great health benefits.
Black lentils are also known as Beluga lentils because when they are cooked, they glisten and look something like Beluga caviar. They hold their shape well and have a nice texture. Green lentils can be substituted for them. As for the pasta in this salad, any small pasta would work, as would other grains. I used an orecchiette-type pasta, which I learned via some lovely Italian friends on Twitter is called sorprese, or ‘surprise.’ They are adorable, really. The dried fruit and light soy may sound strange, but the fruit contrasts with the earthiness of the lentils, while the soy compliments it quite nicely, without making it taste of Chinese takeout.
*Editing to add (a week later) – I’ve made this again, but substituted this delicious wild rice blend from Lundberg, and I love it. The salad is that much heartier, and even higher in protein and fibre. And gluten-free (assuming you use a G.F soy sauce).
Black Lentil Salad
1 cup black lentils
1 3/4 cups liquid (water or unsalted stock)
1/2 a shallot, minced
pinch of salt
1 tsp coconut or other oil
3 sprigs thyme
1 cup small pasta
1/4 cup dried fruit (cranberries, cherries, mango, apricot… chopped if necessary)
2 cups chopped assorted vegetables
handful of chopped parsley (or herb of your choice)
2-3 tablespoons vinegar (I used raw cider vinegar)
2 teaspoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons neutral oil
Heat the coconut oil in a medium saucepan and saute the shallot with a pinch of salt until softened. Add the lentils and coat them with the oil. Add the water and thyme sprigs and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Cover, turn the heat down a little and let simmer for 35-45 minutes, checking for doneness in the last 10-15 minutes. They may not absorb all of the water. That’s okay. Taste a few of them together to accurately gauge if they’re done. They should have a little bite. Don’t let them get mushy. Rinse them to cool them down and drain them well, removing the thyme sprigs.
As the lentils cook, grab a large bowl and combine the chopped vegetables (I used red pepper, cucumber, radish, celery and green onion) with the vinegar, light soy and oil. Let stand while finishing the lentils and pasta.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente. Again, it should have a little bite to it. In the last minute before it’s finished, add the dried fruit to soften it slightly. Strain and rinse under cool water, draining well.
Mix the lentils and pasta with the vegetables. Add the chopped parsley, toss gently and refrigerate for an hour or so. Check for seasoning and enjoy.
Serves about 6