I may like to cook more than the average gal, but I know when the weather is this hot, I want to visit my kitchen primarily for iced coffee, Kombucha or Sauvignon Blanc refills as the day unfurls into another balmy night.
Who feels like cooking when it’s almost 95 degrees out?
That said, a gal can only do “Picnics for Dinner” (bread, great cheeses, salumi and olives, etc) so many nights in a row before guilt, gut and grumblings put a screeching halt and call out for something a little healthier.
That’s where this salad comes in.
Let me back up a minute here. I make various versions of lentil salads throughout the year. After rice and quinoa, Le Puy lentils are the most in-demand item in my bulk pantry, and it’s fun to customize this salad according to what’s in season or hanging out in the fridge.
When made in a salad, lentils can sit out for hours (like this dinner I dropped off a couple weeks ago on a neighbor’s porch knowing she was coming home from vacation to an empty fridge).
In the fall, leeks, squash and perhaps roasted fennel play a supporting role in this salad.
Come winter, escarole, goat cheese and roasted beets are thrown in.
Spring finds asparagus and snap peas joining in the fun, and when summer comes around (or heat outside is soaring like it is now), nothing is better with lentils than crispy, water-filled vegetables: tomatoes, cucumbers, tender greens.
This weekend I had two different picnics planned with friends, and when I found some fantastic looking mozzarella on sale at Whole Foods, I started with that.
I love fresh mozzarella but it tends to be bland so I added lots of lemon juice and zest, fresh garlic and salt and pepper to the little cut balls and then let those marinate a little bit while I pulled everything else together (chile flakes would have been terrific with these, too).
The lentils only took about 20 minutes in a pot of salted water — giving you oodles of time (and then some) to gather the rest of the ingredients.
I drained the lentils, threw them in a bowl with the tomatoes, cucumbers, mozzarella and topped with a couple handfuls of field greens, and then gave it a big toss.
Also too in the bowl was a quick vinaigrette: the juice and zest of another lemon whisked into a 1/4 cup of olive oil with fresh garlic and chopped tarragon thrown in.
Twenty one minutes after starting, I had made enough food for 2 picnics and 2 lunches with a little left over– and I didn’t even have to turn the stove on once.
So I refrigerated half of it for the second day and took the first batch with me for my first outing.
It was so enjoyed in the sunny backyard of pals — and went well with pomegranate sparkling water as the thermometer inched to the triple digits.
Happily, I’d made some meringues for teachers the day prior and had saved myself a box — so those were enjoyed as well.
Day two the lentils were just as good — and great grub to nibble on as our kids played in the fountain at Jamison Square.
And tonight on Day Three?
You guessed it (and to shamelessly play-on Pollo Bravo‘s offerings):
Winner Winner Lentil Dinner.
Hope you all are keeping cool!
- (all amounts approximate -- mix, match and adjust to your liking)
- 1lb. Le Puy lentils
- ¼ lb. fresh mozzarella, halved if small, cubed if from larger balls
- 1 large cucumber, seeded and cubed
- ⅔ lb. cherry tomatoes or sliced bigger ones
- 1 ripe avocado, cubed
- handful of field greens or spinach
- handful of tarragon, basil and/or mint, chopped
- juice and zest of 2 lemons
- olive oil (about ¼ C., give or take)
- salt and pepper
- Cook lentils in pot of lightly salted water and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook until tender (but not yet soft), about 20-25 minutes.
- Marinate mozzarella, using zest and juice of one lemon, a drizzle of olive oi and salt and pepper.
- Meanwhile, throw all vegetables, greens and herbs, and marinated mozzarella (with juice/oil blend) in a bowl. Whisk together the remainder of the lemon zest, juice and olive oil together with generous pinches of both salt and pepper and drizzle over bowl.
- Toss gently and adjust salt/pepper/oil if necessary.
- Serve or refrigerate until about 30 minutes before serving-- salad tastes best room temperature.