Baby, it’s hot outside.
And yet still there are potlucks to go to, block parties to drop by, picnics to attend — and it seems like every invite comes with the ubiquitous “bring a dish to share.”
Which means that unless you are planning to walk in with a bucket of the Colonel’s best or something out of the Costco cooler, you’re going to have to do a little prep or cooking of your own. Never mind the thermometer is about to hit the century mark — you need to walk in with something that shows a little effort.
Here’s my two cents on all the outside events of the season; they’re a helluva lot of fun but there is almost never enough protein to go around but no shortage of booze, pasta salads or bread products.
Which means if you get caught up with chatting (as I usually do), the pickings for nibbling are pretty scarce towards the end of the picnic/potluck/party.
Chances are you’re either going to eat something of dubious origin (want to play Russian roulette with that chicken salad?) or something starchy (if I see one more cold mac salad at a BBQ I may lose it for real).
Hold up here. Be the change you want to see. Bring something else entirely (and you don’t have to have a homemade vintage cover for your gratin dish, but it’s cheery, no?).
Here’s a dish that:
- offers protein and can accommodate almost any leftover veggies you have
- is a low-cost answer when you need to make food for a crowd
- is a breeze to assemble
- can sit for hours, even in extreme heat
- singlehandedly will leave you feeling sated
I make one version or another of this salad almost every week; not only does it taste great at all those al fresco shin digs, it’s wonderfully refreshing and satisfying for a mid-week lunch — or for supper alongside a couple sausages and garlic ciabatta hot off the grill.
A salad like this is what I most crave mid-winter and I can’t get enough of it when the weather soars. The good news is that you too probably have most of what you need for this already in your cupboard and fridge.
The lentils were waiting in the pantry. Thanks, Trader Joe’s, for making it easy to replenish my legume supply when bumping up my charcuterie and cheese stash.
I had some gorgeous cherry tomatoes, ripe avocado and a couple ears of corn from Whole Foods. I thought that they’d each bring something different to the party, so I sliced up the first two and stripped the ear of its kernels. I also had a full bunch of cilantro so I gave that a rough chop, too.
The lentils were cooked in no time, and when almost done, I threw the corn kernels in the same water. Say holler for one-pot cooking.
Especially at this time of the year.
I pulled together a quick vinaigrette, gave it a good toss, and then it was go time.
I inadvertently bought two kinds of corn — white and yellow — but I love how they gave the salad even more color variation.
New rule, Kline — mix and match corn varieties for optimal visual appeal in salads.
I made a huge batch for my seniors on my Meals on Wheels route.
Knowing that the weather is about to get even hotter, I wanted to make them something that would be both sustaining and refreshing and would hold well in the fridge for a couple days if necessary.
After a long schlep delivering food in terrific heat, I was wiped out.
I perked up, however, when I remembered that there was one little friend back home, sitting on the counter of my air-conditioned kitchen, happy just to wait for me.
So bright-tasting, so many pops of flavor and color.
Summer in a bowl.
- For Salad
- 1 lb. green lentils (I use TJ's brand or Le Puy French lentils)
- 3-4 ears corn, kernels cut off from the ears
- 1-2 ripe avocados, cut into cubes
- 1 -2 C. cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 small batch cilantro, leaves chopped coarsely
- For Vinaigrette:
- about ⅓ C. vegetable or canola oil
- ½ C. apple cider or aged red wine vinegar
- 2 garlic cloves, minced fine
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika
- 2 pinches salt and 1 pinch ground pepper
- Crumbled feta or goat cheese (optional)
- Add lentils to a pot with twice as much water and bring to boil in lightly salted water, then turn down to a simmer.
- While the lentils are cooking, make the vinaigrette. Place all the ingredients in a Mason jar and shake vigorously for 15 seconds.
- Check on lentils. I've found that the LePuy lentils cook up perfectly in about 25 minutes, the TJ's lentils in about 30. Once nearly done, add corn kernels to lentil cooking pot, and cook just for 1 minute (you just want to take the rawness out of the corn, want to leave lots of peppy fresh flavor to the corn).
- Drain lentils/corn and set aside. Toss with vinaigrette. Add tomatoes, avocado and cilantro and season to taste (add more oil, vinegar or salt if necessary).
- Garnish with feta or goat cheese if so desired.