Monday, April 23, 2012

The Caviar of Legumes: Black Lentils!

Image from the Earthy Delights Blog:

Black lentils are beautiful, glossy, iron-rich, mild in flavor and hold their shape well when cooked. For this reason, they're often referred to as the "caviar of legumes!" I like black lentils for salads because they hold their shape and soak up whatever flavors you throw at them. I also like them because a single serving contains 20% of your RDV of iron, 13 grams of protein, and 9 grams of fiber while only costing you 170 calories. In Ayurvedic medicine, black lentils are said to be especially good for athletes, women who've recently given birth, and others who need a boost of nutritional energy. Because of their high iron and fiber content, black lentils move slowly through the digestive system and have some detoxifying properties. All more reasons to add this beautiful lentil to your legume rotation.

With a big glass jar of black lentils smiling in my pantry, many heavy bags of produce from the farmer's market, and a busy, busy week ahead I put together a bright dressing of fresh orange, lemon, mint and tarragon to toss with the lentils, shaved fennel, tart apple, and thinly sliced Persian cucumbers. This salad is a great, high-protein component of a multi-salad lunch-- light enough to avoid the mid-afternoon urge to snack and nap and filling enough to keep you going until dinner. Plus, each one-cup serving clocks in under 200 calories!

Black Lentil Salad with Fennel, Mint, and Fresh Herbs

1 cup organic black lentils, picked over and rinsed
1" piece organic kombu (optional)

1 small bulb fennel
1 medium tart apple
2 small Persian cucumbers
1 small young sweet onion (Like you find at the market, about 1.5- 2" in diameter, and sugar sweet, not spicy. Red onion will work in a pinch, but change the flavor a bit.)

1 fresh organic navel orange, juiced and zested
1 fresh organic lemon, juiced and zested
2 T organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
~ 15- 20 leaves fresh mint
1/3 cup fresh tarragon

sea salt and pepper to taste

Box grater with mandoline
Sharp knife
fine colander
mixing bowl
3 Qt. Pot

Simmer the lentils and kombu in 4 cups filtered water for 20- 25 minutes, or until tender. Drain and place the colander over a large mixing bowl. Place the lentils, in the colander, in the freezer to cool.

Either use a small food processor to combine the orange and lemon juice with the olive oil and fresh herbs, or chop the herbs very fine and toss with the liquid ingredients and set aside. Reserve 1 T of orange zest.

Using the box grater, grate the apple, and shave the fennel bulb, cucumbers, and sweet onion on the mandoline. You can also use a very sharp knife to slice the veggies into thin pieces.

When the lentils are cool, toss with the veggies, dressing, and zest. Let the salad sit and chill for at least one hour before tasting for salt and pepper and serving.

Today I had this salad paired with deep purple kale massaged with a variation on Gena's (From Choosing Raw) "Outstanding Miso Dressing," where I replaced the agave with maple syrup, doubled the ginger, and added a hefty squeeze of lime to finish it off! The kale salad just gets better with the addition of grated beets and sunrise carrots and a handful of chopped scallions. The flavors are very different, but to me, it was a perfect lunch worthy not just of my fancy stainless steel to-go ware, but also of a party platter.

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