How often do you second guess a recipe? Something just doesn’t seem right… an odd ingredient, a different preparation technique…. what do you do? Try something new or resort to your old habits?
Dreena Burton’s recipe for this Lemon Mediterranean Lentil Salad had me scratching my head. Cook my lentils in lemon juice? With oil? Had I not learned my lesson with the Green Mango Curry? Acid makes for firm beans. Even dry-toasting makes beans keep their shape. I want my beans to cook! Heck, I already know that the secret to great lentil salads is to use French du Puy lentils. Quick cooking, they also keep their shape and hold up well to salads.
So, I forged ahead… ignoring the plea to simmer the lentils in lemon juice. Forgoing the suggestion to toast them beforehand.
My mistake: The original recipe didn’t say to drain the lentils. So I didn’t. I should have. The glory of this salad comes from the simmering finale of the herbs and tomatoes with the cooked lentils. The olives, capers and lemon zest add a delicious mix of flavours that permeate the lentils in a great way. Except, because I had omitted the lemon juice and toasting, they kept cooking. They became mushy. Still uber delicious, but not as firm as I prefer for my lentil salads. Not as photogenic as I would like, but this recipe was too delicious not to share pronto. I know I will be remaking this, during the perpetual season of summer potluck gatherings, but I did not want you to be deprived of such a great dish… although may I suggest actually following the recipe? Let me know how it goes!
Here are some other great Mediterranean bean salad recipes:
When I visited San Antonio last year, I discovered Greens, a gem of a restaurant and a haven for vegetarians on the outskirts of downtown. Eager to side-skirt the meat- and cheese-heavy Texan cuisine, a few friends and I checked it out together. All of the dishes we ate that night were great – fresh and vibrant. They really know how to make a mean sauce!
I still remember when my friends tried the kale salad. It was their first time eating a raw kale salad and they enjoyed it. Simple and sweet, yet slightly spicy, but not overpowering. We tried to guess what was in it, pinpointing the flavours.. soy sauce? citrus? chili flakes? While there was no specific recipe (they make it to taste every day), thankfully our server told us exactly what was in it: soy sauce, sesame oil, red pepper flakes and brown sugar. I could have sworn there was orange juice, but regardless, I was eager to try my hand at this once I returned home, with or without the citrus!
As I flipped through Color Me Vegan, I bookmarked the raw kale salad with orange, grapefruit and lime, and I remembered the salad from San Antonio. I figured this would be a good recipe to try to recreate it. I wasn’t sure about including grapefruit, so I omitted it entirely. Being familiar with the massaging technique for raw kale salads, I also opted to wilt my kale with the citrus dressing. Otherwise, I really enjoyed the citrus kick from both the orange and lime juices. It paired well with the kale, and the addition of onion and pine nuts made this even better than the raw kale salad at Greens! I prefer my salads to be on the less sweet side, so feel free to add more agave, to taste, depending on the sweetness of your oranges.
I’ve said it before, but raw kale salads are perfect for gatherings: no worrying about anything spoiling in the sun and wilted kale salads can easily be made in advance since they are supposed to wilt! Enjoy!
Other kale salads I have enjoyed:
Vacations are supposed to be relaxing, right?
Not if you are Rob and me.
We finally picked our vacation destination for the year: Colombia, here we come! (Well in a few weeks…)
Hearing my cousin’s stories about the lovely beaches, vibrant (shifty?) street-life, fabulous hiking and river cruises in the Amazon, we are excited to check out such a diverse country.
One thing Rob and I are planning to do is trek to Ciudad Perdida, Colombia’s Lost City (aka Colombia’s Machu Picchu). It is a stunningly beautiful but grueling 6-day hike through hot and humid conditions. My cousin had tons of stories from his trip – having to stop hiking around noon because it was so hot (over 32C with high humidity) but then swimming all day in the waterfalls, visiting a cocaine farm, stunning vistas, but also being infested by tics, another girl attacked by fire ants and not being able to walk the day following the hike. Hopefully Rob and I are up for the challenge! I think this will be harder than our 2-day 360km bike ride to Kingston last year, but totally worth it. I love this description from Trip Advisor: To enjoy the trek you will need to be relatively fit, not afraid of heights, be sure of foot, not mind cold showers, not mind being dirty, have the ability to fall asleep in a hammock and enjoy mucking in.
I say: BRING IT ON!
While we are still working on our trip itinerary, I love taking cooking classes when I travel. I am scheduling a cooking class in Bogota that promises a trip to the market AND all meals to be vegan. Rob is quite concerned about the availability of vegan options outside Bogota, but I am hopeful things will work out. For the hike, the tour group promises meals filled with beans, lentils and brown rice for me. I hear the fruits and potatoes are to die-for, though, so I will not pass up the opportunity to sample those. If I bring quinoa, I can teach them how to cook it for me, too.
Legend has it that the Inca army subsisted partially on quinoa, and I see no better way to trek through the Colombian jungles. It is no secret that it is one of my favourite (pseudo)grains.
In honour of quinoa, here is a simple yet delicious salad. I honestly wasn’t expecting much from such a humble set of ingredients, but they worked so well together. Zucchini and thinly sliced onions are slowly pan-fried with thyme to create a lovely caramelized duo. The zucchini impedes full caramelization of the onions, but it is a much simpler way to create the salad. The purists may want to caramelize the onions solo for 45 minutes and roast the zucchini on a grill for even more flavour! Regardless, my way is great, too. The veggies are then tossed with the quinoa, lemon and parsley. I don’t use parsley much, but its slight (but not overpowering) flavour was quite refreshing here. Top with some toasted pine nuts, and you have a filling dish. I could definitely eat this every day while hiking.
But please help me: Any tips for travelling in Colombia? For trekking in the humid jungle? (help on the last one, please!)
Any favourite travel snacks that can withstand high temperatures?