lentils in salads

vegan lentil salad with avocado

Okay, so I mentioned that new-to-me Le Creuset pot, and I mentioned the new food restrictions and that at this point I'm eating almost vegan, except with honey (my apologies to bees). But what I haven't mentioned is that I used the Le Creuset pot for the first time on Friday to cook up a batch of French green lentils for a salad. French green are my favorite lentils because uncooked they look like dragon scales or tiny turtles. Plus, they hold their shape well when cooked. David Lebovitz claims they must be lentilles du Puy, but imported French lentils are out of my budget, so the domestic bulk kind work for me. Lentils, if you don't eat them already, are much quicker to cook than beans and a cheap source of vegetable protein. I had been planning to make a batch of this salad anyway, only adding feta (sigh).

This is a modified version of a dish my foodie friend Holly made me years ago in California out of the Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home. It was delicious, like everything she's cooked for me, and I asked for the recipe, making it at least once every summer since. Moosewood's original recipe calls for—in addition to celery, sweet bell pepper, and parsley—sun-dried tomatoes (which I can't eat now), minced red onion, and ground fennel in the dressing. But instead of the last three items, I used canned artichokes, scallions, and no fennel. In the past, I've substituted dill for the fennel, which also works well, though this time I had neither. And I added a handful of raw pumpkin seeds for crunch.

French green lentils, uncooked

The point is that cooked lentils of any color other than split or red (which turn to mush), make for a tasty, hearty salad or side dish, summer or winter. Just simmer rinsed lentils for no more than 15-20 minutes (keep testing so not to overcook), along with a little olive oil, a pinch of paprika, a couple garlic cloves, bay leaf, and some thyme. Then drain them, saving the broth as a nice cup or two of liquid nutrients (just add some salt and maybe some curry or cumin). And then toss the cooked, drained lentils, along with assorted chopped raw, roasted, or sauteéd seasonal vegetables, with your favorite dressing (this one was olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, paprika, minced garlic, salt, and pepper), and in summer serve over a bed of greens, topping the dish off with crumbled feta or diced avocado.

Avocado, by the way, has become over the weekend my new cheese—if only avocado trees grew in Portland—and if only I could think of other things to make since I ate the same meal four days in a row. If you have a favorite protein-filled vegan dish fit for a strict anti-inflammatory diet, please point me to it. Yesterday I sautéed some diced extra-firm tofu in extra virgin olive oil with curry powder and minced garlic, and then braised some chopped garden kale on top of that. Now what? It's time to pull out the cookbooks for inspiration.

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