Thursday, March 5, 2009

Ugly but Good

Can we agree that sometimes really ugly food tastes pretty good? This lentil salad is a perfect entry into that category (in fact I just made a tag for it - ugly food deserves respect). It's another one of the dishes I made for the WBUR meet up. Clearly, even I wasn't enamored of its looks - this is the only picture I took of it.

Lentils are a great budget-conscious food. But they can also be jazzed up with some pretty elegant ingredients. In addition to lentils (just regular green ones from the supermarket), this salad contains roasted kohlrabi pieces, caramelized onions, parsley and feta cheese. It's seasoned with a toasted cumin and red wine vinaigrette.

Treat this recipe as more of a guideline. Hold back some lentils when you're mixing everything together - add more in as you: you want a nice blend of lentils and vegetables. You'll know when it looks right. Keep checking your seasoning: shoot for a nice contrast between salty and sour. If you're adding feta, keep that in mind and don't oversalt before you add it to the salad. To make this a full meal, add a hard boiled egg to each serving and serve the salad over or alongside a green salad with some pita bread or foccacia.

Lentil Salad with Kohlrabi and Caramelized Onions
Serves about 8
  • 1 pound lentils (pick through them for stones and give them a good rinse before cooking them)
  • 2 large onions, peeled and cut into thin slices
  • 2-4 cups of "roastable" vegetables, cut in chunks (I used kohlrabi, but you could broccoli or butternut squash or peppers or mushrooms or what have you - left over cooked vegetables would be great in this)
  • 1/2 - 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 pound feta (or goat cheese or farmer cheese)
  • red wine vinegar
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
Cook the lentils: In a large saucepan (the lentils will nearly double in volume) place the lentils are cover them with 2" of water. Add a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer and cook until the lentils are tender. Depending on how old the lentils are, it will take between 30-45 minutes for them to cook. When they are cooked, drain them and set them aside.

Make the rest of the vegetables: Saute the sliced onions over medium heat until dark brown (not burned) and caramelized. Roast the chopped vegetables in a 400-degree oven until they are cooked through to your taste.

Put the onions and roasted vegetables in a large bowl with the parsley and cumin. Add half of the lentils and stir gently to combine. Add more lentils until you get the proportions you want. Drizzle the salad with vinegar and oil (about equal amounts of each). Sprinkle with salt and a good amount of freshly ground pepper. Add the feta and stir to combine. Taste and adjust for acid and salt as needed.

This is good right away, but also holds really well so you can make a day or so in advance. It tastes best at room temperature.


ttfn300 said...

i'm glad to see you post the recipe, I really enjoyed this!! :)

Sunday Cook said...

It was your compliment that made me think I should post it! As I said, it's sorta loosey-goosey recipe-wise, but I think most folks could handle it. :p-)

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