For family gatherings, I find it less stressful for everyone if I bring my own food.
On one hand, I get to eat what I want, and on the other hand, I don’t have to worry about rattling off my long list of things I won’t eat and having someone else stress about what to feed me. For me, it comes naturally. For others, it isn’t as easy and can be quite a challenge to think beyond the meat and potatoes.
Rob and I ended up in Woodstock twice this month, and this is what I brought to the BBQ. I tried to keep my salad on the tamer side, with familiar ingredients and flavours, all the while introducing something new for the crowd, like black beluga lentils. Turns out golden beets were new, too.
Beets can be controversial. Love them or hate them. Personally, I like beets and really enjoy them after they’ve been roasted. Golden beets have a more mild, sweeter flavour, so I jumped with glee when I found them on sale (2 large bunches for $1.50! Surprisingly, no, this wasn’t at Sunny’s, just at a local grocer up the street.). I figured the only place I could safely bring a beet salad would be to a Polish crowd.
Adapted from Whole Living, this salad is quite simple. Lentils and beets. Ginger, mint, coriander and cilantro. OK, the ingredient list sounds long but it all worked seamlessly together. Nothing was overpowering. Everything worked well.
While nearly all the salads were polished off at my Mom’s party (trust me, I was not-so-secretly cheering that more meat was leftover than salads!), I can’t say the same for the Polish crowd. They love their meats and sweets. :P That meant I had 2 more meals from my salad when I returned to Toronto… not too bad, if you ask me!
Roasted Golden Beet and Lentil Salad with Mint and Cilantro
1 pound (about 6 medium) trimmed golden or red beets
1 cup dried lentils, such as French green or black beluga(I used black beluga)
6 thin slices fresh ginger plus 1 teaspoon finely grated
1 small red onion, finely diced (1/2 cup) and soaked in water for 10 minutes, then drained
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
2 teaspoons agave or maple syrup
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds, toasted and ground, or 1 teaspoon ground
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint, plus leaves for garnish
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, plus leaves for garnish
1. For the roasted beets, preheat the oven to 425F. Peel and slice/chop the beets into medium-bite-sized pieces, but put all the pieces back together again. Wrap in tinfoil and roast for at least an hour. Roasting times will depend on the size of your beets. They are ready when they are easily pierced with a fork. Be careful when handling the hot beets, because they can easily leak. Set aside to cool.
2. Combine lentils and sliced ginger in a medium saucepan, and cover with water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer gently. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lentils are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain; discard ginger. Transfer to a large bowl, and stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt.
3. Combine remaining teaspoon salt and the grated ginger, onion, vinegar, and agave, and let stand for 15 minutes. Whisk in oil and the coriander. Pour over lentils, and toss to coat. Season with pepper. Stir in chopped mint and cilantro. Arrange beet wedges on top of lentils. Garnish with herbs, and serve immediately.