Have you ever eaten something that made your taste buds just wake up and POP!? I didn’t expect it when making this Mediterranean Lentil Salad because I have had many lentil salads before, and while I enjoy lentil salad, it is was nothing beyond simple enjoyment. But this salad is a flavor bomb and definitely a recipe to keep!
One of my Graduate school classes is a Culinary Lab. This semester we are focusing on the concept of FASS (fat, acid, salt and sweet) to balance dishes and create that WOW factor in the mouth. By tasting as you go along, you can determine whether the recipe requires more salt, oil, acid like lemon juice or vinegar or sweetness from fruit, maple syrup or dried fruit (preferably not processed white sugar). Using your taste buds as a guide helps you, the chef, create balance and pleasure in each dish.
In my opinion, there are two great ways to utilize FASS to the fullest: soups and salads. Both dishes can fall flat in flavor and excitement, subjected to adjectives of “boring” or “uneventful”. OR both dishes can be something you want to make in bulk and eat every day until you have the will to call it quits and move onto the next!
That’s how I felt about this lentil salad. A-MAZ-ING! The lentils were tender (they are often overcooked and mushy), the lime zest and juice along with the fresh orange segments brightened up the earthiness of the lentils, the peppers added a pleasant sweet crunch, the pungency of the onion kept my taste buds in anticipation, and the fresh herbs contributed to an addictive vivaciousness that encouraged my fork to continue going back for more. Flavor-wise nothing is left out of this salad!
Besides the amazing flavor, what I love about lentils is their adaptability and of course, their health benefits. Lentils are a fabulous low fat source of protein, and hearty enough to make a complete meal when combined with vegetables in a soup or salad. They are easy to cook, inexpensive and also rich in magnesium – the anti-stress mineral. (Read more about anti-stress foods in my recent SWAAY article here: http://swaay.com/stress-depletes-use-food-build/). Lentils are an important component in several world cuisines, including Indian, Mediterranean and French. As mentioned above, with brown lentils, care should be taken to not overcook them, especially in a salad, as they are best served tender, with a bite.
Now, let’s get started on creating this recipe. One thing I must add is make sure you set your mise en place before starting this recipe. There are a lot of components to preparing this dish like chopping, mincing and making the dressing. Once you get rolling, if you are not prepared, things can get a bit stressful, and since we are eating anti-stress lentils, you certainly don’t want to pump up your cortisol levels in their preparation. So, read the recipe first, set things up and then begin chopping to get everything in its place. Ready? Here we go!
Mediterranean Lentil Salad
2 cups dried French (black, brown) lentils
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¾ teaspoon salt
2 oranges peeled and sectioned
2 large cloves of garlic minced
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
¼ cup finely minced red onions
½ teaspoon each fresh grated zest of lime and lemon
½ cup dried currants or cranberries
1 carrot, finely minced
½ each yellow and red bell peppers minced
A handful of each fresh parsley, chives, and mint finely minced
What to do:
- Rinse the lentils in a colander. Boil a large potful of water – at least 6 cups. When water reached boiling point lower the heat to simmer and add the lentils. Cook lentils gently in simmering water partially covered until tender (the goal is to cook lentils gently to keep their shape and be tender), about 20 minutes.
- Drain the lentils when they are done and gently rinse them in cold water. Drain again and place them in a large bowl.
- Add remaining ingredients except bell peppers and fresh herbs cover tightly and chill for a couple of hours.
- Add the bell peppers and fresh herbs within an hour of serving
Adapted by Maryland University of Integrative Health from Still Live with Menu Cookbook by Mollie Katzen.
Here are my photos along the way.