Monday, July 25, 2011

Red Lentil Salad with Lemony Couscous & Avocado

In one distinct way, I am a very "granola" person: I am a freak for lentils. I love them as a side dish, in soups and salads, or cooked forever and mashed into a dip/spread. I am a big fan of beans in general, and lentils are among the most nutritious of them, beating out even my other favorite (chickpeas) for more protein and less fat per serving. The fat content in beans is nearly negligible, but whatever. I still love lentils. And granola.
The balsamic vinegar in the dressing conceals the natural red color of the lentils somewhat.
This lentil salad recipe is my attempt to mechanize a very odds-and-ends dish that I've tossed together approximately one zillion times. (This is the first time I've used red lentils instead of your basic brownish green variety, which will cook for more like 20-30 minutes instead of 5-10.) You can use basically any vegetables that you want to in this salad. Cucumber and celery are both good, as are fresh herbs, and you could also add Feta, which I sometimes do. Cherry tomatoes really are better for the salad format, but if you just don't have any around (I didn't) plum tomatoes are dandy too. And if couscous isn't your bag, you could serve this on a bed of baby spinach, which is equally delicious:

1 cup red lentils, rinsed, any debris discarded
1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
3/4 cup bell pepper, any color, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup cherry tomatoes, halved, or 2-3 plum tomatoes diced and seeded
1/2 cup carrots, cut into matchsticks
1 green onion, thinly sliced
1/2 - 1 avocado, sliced lengthwise
Handful of baby spinach (optional)
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

3/4 cup couscous
3/4 cup water or reduced-sodium vegetable broth
The zest and juice of 1 lemon (a little pulp in the juice is ok)
1/4 teaspoon salt

Salad Directions:
1. In a medium sauce pan, bring about 4 cups of water to a boil over medium heat, and add lentils. Stir to separate and simmer uncovered for 5-10 minutes. (You want them tender to the bite, but not soft. Soft lentils are great for spreads, etc, but when their destination is a salad, you want to preserve more of the bean's structural integrity.)
2. When lentils are tender to the bite, drain and allow to mostly cool at room temperature, then cover and chill for at least 1 hour. (See Cook's Note)
3. In a large bowl, whisk together balsamic vinegar, about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and salt and pepper. Add green onion, bell peppers, tomatoes, carrots, and any other veggies you're using.
4. Add lentils to bowl, and gently combine with dressing and veggies. Pour onto serving dish or serve individually, over the couscous, and top with sliced avocado.

Couscous Directions:
5. In your medium sauce pan, bring water or broth, lemon juice and lemon zest to a boil. 
6. In a medium bowl, combine couscous and salt. (If you are using regular-sodium broth, you may want to omit the salt).
7. Pour boiling broth over couscous and allow to sit 10 minutes. Fluff couscous with a fork before serving. 

Cook's Note: This time of year I like to cook my lentils and then chill them before making this salad. You can also do the warm-lentils-cool-veggies thing, but I think a similar effect is created with the cool salad and warm couscous. This makes about 4 servings.
 7 steps seems like a lot to me, because I'm lazy, but as you can see this is super easy and definitely not time-consuming. And so yummy! The salad can easily be a make-ahead, and would be delicious for lunch in a pita pocket, which is extra nice. I'm definitely looking forward to leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Of course, the avocado doesn't travel so well, but even without it this is a tasty, fill-you-up-and-keep-you-going meal.

Quote of the Day: Magnesium is Nature's own calcium channel blocker. When enough magnesium is around, veins and arteries breathe a sigh of relief and relax... Want to literally keep your heart happy? Eat lentils. ~

No comments:

Post a Comment