There is a lot of talk these days about “green living” but spring has had the green thing going on for a long time. This week I taught a class themed, “Spring Soups and Salads” featuring many of the vegetables we associate with this season. Among them were asparagus, sugar snap peas, spring peas, scallions, arugula, radish and fresh herbs, mint and parsley. The end of class evaluations and smiling faces verified I made good choices for the featured recipes. Among the ones I chose is the salad I selected for today’s post, highlighting the lovely and often underrated lentil. Lentils are popular in parts of Europe and a staple throughout much of the Middle East and India. This lens shaped PULSE has long been used as an inexpensive meat substitute and serves as a good source of calcium,vitamins A and B, iron and phosphorus. In addition to the common brown variety, there are also red lentils, French green and black beluga, all becoming more widely used and more readily available. These are the varieties I am familiar with, but there may be more. I welcome learning about them, but I have yet to make their acquaintance.
For this preparation, it is recommended that you use either the French green (that is what is pictured here) or the black beluga. Both of these varieties are smaller in size and hold their shape and maintain some ‘tooth’ when cooked, not breaking down easily like the red and brown, which would be more suitable for soups or stews. There are endless possibilities for using these tiny delights. They can be served hot or cold as a side or entree depending what you choose to pair with them. They are extremely versatile so I urge you to think of them as a blank canvas. They are perfect for all seasons and will partner well with many spices and seasonal offerings.
Since the first of May makes its grand entrance this weekend, I have prepared this salad with crunchy radish, celery, and scallion and gave it a garnish of fresh herbs.
Here is how it went down in my kitchen.
MARINATED LENTILS with CRUNCHY VEGETABLES
Recipe from Bon Appetit, April 2016
1 large onion, quartered through the root
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 c black beluga or French green lentils, rinsed, picked
1/4 c olive oil
1t coriander seeds
1/2 t cumin seeds
3T sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar (love the sherry)
Freshly ground black pepper
6 radishes, trimmed, very thinly sliced (I shaved them on a mandolin)
4 scallions. thinly sliced
1c fresh parsley and/or mint
1c thinly sliced celery hearts and leaves
- Cook onion, bay leaves and lentils in a large saucepan of simmering salted water until lentils are tender but still firm, about 15-20 minutes. Drain; discard onion and bay leaves and transfer to a medium bowl.
- Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Cook coriander seeds and cumin seeds, swirling the skillet until fragrant, about 1 minutes. Add the spice mixture and vinegar to the lentils, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat.
- Just before serving, top the lentils with radishes, scallions, herbs and celery; season with salt and pepper.
NOTE: Lentils (without the vegetables and herbs) can be marinated 3 days ahead. Cover and chill. Other seasonal vegetables can be added as you wish.
Lately I have really discovered many uses for sherry vinegar, which is what I used for this. It might be my new BFF. Just a small splash can really elevate many dishes. The marinade infused with the toasted coriander and cumin seeds, is enhanced by the sherry vinegar giving it the perfect amount of warmth along with tang and vigor. The end garnish of fresh parsley and mint give it such a bright finish. It is well balanced and satisfying and if spring has not yet sprung for you, this is the ticket to take you there. As with all salad dressings, I always recommend using the best quality extra-virgin olive oil you have. It makes a difference.
I am happy to report our first garden asparagus made an appearance this week and the local farmers markets have begun their rebirth. This is such an exciting time of year! The new calves, lambs and goats are all romping sweetly with their moms in the fields and the pastures resemble the Irish hillsides. I look forward to tasting vegetables and fruits the way nature meant for them to taste as the seasons evolve. Whatever you are up to, I hope you are enjoying life and spreading the love, one dish at a time. Until next time, may good food grace your table and sunshine light your heart. Sending love from my kitchen to yours. Jeanne