Ever find yourself stereotyping people based on the way they talk, where they come from, or the way they dress? I find myself stereotyping food. For lots of foods I can embrace their versatility and have fun experimenting with them in different culinary contexts. Then there are other foods that just stay stuck in a very specific place for me. Enter – my friend, the lentil. In my small, little mind, if you are a lentil you are a) being eaten in a nice Indian dish or b) being consumed in some bland, tasteless way by an individual wearing Birkenstocks and reading Walden. How sad is it that I have limited the lentil in this way?
This poor legume has never done a thing to me and yet in all my years of cooking, I can honestly say that the only time I have put it on the table was in Amy’s canned lentil soup and in one of those heat in the bag, Indian deals – – – and then that was usually only to feed my kids, not myself. And yet, to read about it, the lentil doesn’t have a bad rap at all. One serving of lentils contains 18g of protein and only 1g of fat. Great source of iron, with one serving chalking up 37% of the daily recommended intake. And on and on go the benefits.
So I recently set out to break down this legume barrier and bring the lentil to my table in all the glory it deserves. My first attempt got great reviews from the family. I made Sloppy Joe Lentil Lettuce Wraps. Unfortunately, the pictures I snapped of those little puppies just didn’t do them justice. I decided I would do the lentil’s already damaged reputation more harm if I were to post those pictures. Maybe the next time around, I will have better luck in the photo department and then be able to share. So next on my list I tackled a Lentil and Mixed Veggie Salad. (I had also realized that I had sequestered the lentil to only Fall and Winter dishes and couldn’t fathom it in any light summer setting).
In all honesty, I’m not sure the actual lentil part of the salad turned out as it should have. In fact, I almost aborted after step one of the recipe. But I stayed the course, and, correct or not, the blending of flavors in this little number and the summer freshness and lightness that it offered were both pleasant surprises.
I started off by rinsing the lentils.
Then, in a saucepan, I combined them with some finely diced garlic and a couple of bay leaves.
I added enough water to just cover the lentils, brought it to a boil, and then reduced the heat and simmered for about 40 minutes.
I drained them (there was basically no liquid left), and set them aside to cool.
While they were cooling, I chopped up some red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, red onion, kalamata olives, carrots, basil & tomatoes. I tossed those veggies with the cooled lentils, and then added in a sauce made of red wine vinegar, olive oil, and salt & pepper.
I placed it atop a bed of butter lettuce on a platter and served.
It was a great summer evening meal served with cantaloupe and avocados with walnut fig balsamic dressing along with a fresh baguette. Filling and yet very light.
So I think I have made amends with the lentil. I took me a while, but I did it. Next up? The lima bean – – – then again, maybe it’s good to tackle only one major life change a year.
Here is the complete recipe for Lentil & Mixed Veggie Salad