Tag Archives: lentils

Winter Salads Rock

One of the pleasures of winter is creating salads using vegetables quite different than those found during the summer months. Root vegetables, beans, legumes and hearty greens all step up to be used in endless creations. Roasting vegetables deepens their flavor, while beans and legumes form layers of interest. Sweet and salty, acid and fats all do their part in making winter salads that are not only interesting, but healthy and delicious. Lettuce be damned!

This salad is full of roasted butternut squash, lentils simmered with a cinnamon stick and smashed garlic, scallions, feta and toasted pepitas. Add a dressing of orange and lemon juice, cumin, cayenne, salt, pepper and grapeseed oil and you have something you can serve as the main event or as a side with a protein. You can even double or triple it for a crowd.

ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH WITH LENTILS AND FETA

FOR THE SALAD:

  • 1/2 cup green lentils
  • 1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 (1-pound) butternut squash
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta
  • 4 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons roasted and salted pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or cilantro (optional)

FOR THE DRESSING:

  • 1/4 cup grapeseed oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Pick any debris from the lentils, then rinse the lentils under running water. Transfer them to a medium saucepan, then add the cinnamon stick, garlic and 1 teaspoon of salt. Add enough water to cover the lentils by an inch. Bring the water to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to low and let simmer until the lentils are tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes. Drain the lentils, discard the cinnamon and garlic; then transfer them to a large bowl.
  2. While the lentils cook, prepare the squash. Trim and discard the top and bottom ends of the squash. Peel the squash, halve it lengthwise, remove and discard the seeds. Slice and cube the squash into about 1 inch pieces, and place them on a parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with Kosher salt and pepper.
  3. Roast the squash until completely tender, slightly caramelized and golden, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes; then add to the lentils.
  4. While the squash cooks, prepare the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk the orange and lemon juice, grapeseed oil, cumin, cayenne and salt and pepper.
  5. Sprinkle the scallions, feta and pumpkin seeds over lentils and squash. Pour 3 tablespoons of dressing over the lentils and squash. Garnish with chopped parsley or cilantro.

Serves 2-4

“A well made salad should have a certain uniformity; it should make perfect sense for those ingredients to be in a bowl together.” –Yotam Ottolenghi

A Leg Up On Legumes

When it comes to food that is inexpensive, versatile, nutrient rich and a pantry staple, nothing can beat beans and legumes. They can be a base for anything from bowls, to entrees, to salads and soups. The two I use the most are chickpeas and lentils. They are cousins and their history dates back to 6000 B.C. Both chickpeas and lentils are still a staple in the Middle Eastern and Indian diets, and are featured in many cuisines throughout the world. They are considered a superfood as they are rich in protein, and are often used as a meat replacement in vegetarian diets. If paired with brown rice or a whole grain they are a complete protein.

Lentils come in a variety of colors, such as brown, green (lentils du Puy), gold, red and even black. Used in French bistro cuisine, they became a favored ingredient. Red lentils cook the fastest and break down quickly, while brown are typically used for soups. Green du Puy hold their shape and are favored for salads. Before using lentils, it is prudent to sort through them for unwanted pebbles or debris. I simply pour them onto a sheet pan and look them over, then transfer them to a wire colander and give them a rinse. The following recipe is beautifully earthy and comes together quickly, making it perfect for a week night. I usually make a large batch, since it freezes well. That way I can thaw a quart and have it on the table without much notice.

COUNTRY LENTIL SOUP

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pound bag of brown lentils, picked over and rinsed
  • 8 cups vegetable stock (homemade if possible) or water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-1/2 cup celery, sliced
  • 1-1/2 cup carrots, cut into small cubes
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian herb blend
  • 1 15.5 ounce can fire roasted tomatoes (I like Muir Glenn)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, heat olive oil on medium-high. Add celery, carrots and onions to pot and sauté until onions are soft, about 8-10 minutes. Add Italian seasoning and mix.
  2. Next add the rinsed lentils, and mix thoroughly. Add the vegetable stock or water and mix again. Bring to a boil, then cover slightly ajar and simmer on low for 40-50 minutes. Taste lentils to seen if they are soft. If not continue to simmer an additional 10-15 minutes or until done.
  3. Add the tomatoes and their juice. Mix, then heat about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Off heat, add red wine vinegar. Ladle into bowls.

Serves: 8-10

“Kindness is like snow—it beautifies everything it covers.” –Kahlil Gibran