Monday, 19 July 2010

Lentil, Onion & Spinach Salad Redux

This is a salad I've made before; you can see it originally here. It's a salad I really like, and since I have a pile of chard in the garden - it has recovered from being eaten twice by the deer so far; very resilient stuff - I thought I would try it with chard. The chard was a little skimpy, so I stretched it out with beet greens, which are also recovering from The Week of the Deer. (Cue ominous organ music. I suppose if I say that nothing has been eaten since Mr. Ferdzy re-installed the electric fence around the garden I will jinx it and they will remember how to sliiiiide under it again, and everything will once more become expensive deer chow. So I won't mention it.)

I have to say I thought the beet greens were too strong here. That's why I threw in some feta cheese: to balance them out a bit. Still, I think it's better just to not use beet greens. Chard or kale should be fine as long as they are fairly young and tender. Still, I'm looking forward to our fall spinach crop so I can make it with spinach again, because I do think that's the best. However, I also decided that roasting the onions is too fiddly, and it's easier just to caramelize them on the stove. If anyone has any comments on which method they would prefer, I'd be happy to hear them.

4 to 6 servings
1 hour - 30 minutes prep time

Lentil Onion and Spinach Salad
1 cup green or brown lentils
1 bay leaf
pinch salt
2 cups water

Put all these items in your rice cooker. Turn on and let cook. Leave until cool, or if you want to assemble the salad right away, rinse them in cold water and drain well. Remove the bay leaf.

Sautéed Onions:
2 medium onions
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil

Peel and chop the onions. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and cook the onions, stirring frequently, until golden brown; probably 20 to 30 minutes. Remove them at once to a plate to cool. Be sure not to let them get too dark too fast. They should cook quite slowly.

Salad Dressing:
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
the juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon sea salt, crushed
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seed, crushed

Whisk the olive oil, lemon juice and seasonings, crushed if necessary. If you are ambitious, you could toast the cumin seed in a dry skillet before crushing it and adding it to the dressing.

To Assemble the Salad:
450 grams (1 pound) baby spinach leaves
OR tender young chard or kale

Wash and pick over the spinach or other greens. Drain well, and chop coarsely. Cook it in just whatever water is still clinging to it until just wilted. Rinse under cold water at once to stop it cooking any further. Squeeze firmly to remove excess liquid, then chop it finely and toss it with the cooked lentils and onions.

This is an excellent salad to make ahead; but the salad should not sit in the dressing or the lemon juice will bleach the spinach. Toss the salad in the dressing just before serving.

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