Meatless Monday – Kale Salad with Lentils and Wild Rice

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This one is for you, Margie!  My sister, Margaret, asked me to come up with a new lentil salad recipe, so here you go!  Thank you for the inspiration –  this one is a keeper!  Lentils and rice are one of my favorite food combinations but they can be heavy which makes them a perfect belly warming winter meal but luckily those cold winter months are behind us.  I decided to lighten them up for summer by tossing French green lentils in a salad with chewy wild rice, toasted pine nuts, tomatoes and kale. Top with scallions, fresh herbs, crumbled feta and a drizzle of lemony vinaigrette for a really delicious and satisfying salad.

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Lentils come in a rainbow of colors, each with their own characteristics.  In general, the darker the lentil, the firmer the texture.  Lighter colored lentils, like yellow and red, are quite mushy when cooked and best for soups.  Brown lentils have a nice flavor but can get mushy if cooked too long.  French green lentils (pictured above) are my favorite but closely followed by Black Beluga lentils which I often use with colorful squashes because of the striking color contrast.  If you don’t normally eat lentils, here are Five Reasons why you should start:

  1. PROTECT YOUR DIGESTIVE SYSTEM – high in fiber
  2. PROTECT YOUR HEART – significant amount of folate and magnesium
  3. STABILIZE YOUR BLOOD SUGAR – full of complex carbohydrates
  4. HIGH IN PROTEIN- the vegetable with the highest level of protein other than soybeans
  5. IMPORTANT MINERALS AND ANTIOXIDANTS –   good source of iron, magnesium and zinc

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Wild rice is actually not really rice. It’s the seed of the water grass, Zizania.  It has a wonderful chewy texture and nutty flavor that is really good in this salad, however it packs it’s own nutritional whollop.  Wild rice is also a good source of protein, fiber, iron and copper as well as other minerals and vitamins including B complex.  Together, they make this meal hearty enough to be a main course.

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Should we even talk about kale?  We all know it’s the reigning queen of leafy greens for it’s nutritional benefits, and rightly so. I used a bunch of red kale from my CSA box but lacinato (dino) or curly kale will work well too.  Since kale is so fibrous, I removed the center rib and sliced the leafy green leaves into thin julienne strips.  This preparation makes it easier to eat and allows the flavors to blend more easily since all the other ingredients are so small.  I learned one unexpected benefit of using kale in salads instead of more traditional lettuces.  I had some leftover salad which I stored in the refrigerator.  Well you know what happens to salads that have already been dressed that sit in the refrigerator overnight… Two days later, I remembered the salad and went to throw it away but it still looked okay.  I ate it for lunch and it was still surprisingly good.  The kale held up really well.  Who knew?

TIPS:  I used two Roma tomatoes for this salad because they are easier to dice and have fewer juices and seeds than the larger Beefsteak or Celbrity types, however, any ripe tomato will work.  If you aren’t a fan of wild rice, you can use a wild rice mix or substitute any kind of rice you like.  A long grain rice cooked al dente will give better results than the stickier shorter grains.

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Kale Salad with Lentils and Wild Rice

1/2 cup dry wild rice
1/2 cup dry lentils (green, black or brown)
1 large or 2 smaller tomatoes, finely diced
2 cups kale, thinly sliced
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup cilantro or parsley, chopped
2-3 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup crumbled feta (optional)

VINAIGRETTE

¼ cup Olive Oil
1 Tbsn lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1/4 tsp coriander
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt

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  • Cook the wild rice according to package instructions (about 45 minutes). Remove from heat and let cool, uncovered.

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  • Cook the lentils according to package instructions but make sure they don’t get too soft.  They should be firm enough to maintain their shape.  Remove from heat and let cool, uncovered.

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  • Toast pine nuts in a dry pan over medium heat until golden brown.  Remove from heat and let cool

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  • Wash kale and remove the thick center rib.  Stack kale and slice thinly crosswise.  Place in a large serving bowl
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  • Whisk together all vinaigrette ingredients and set aside.

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  • Transfer wild rice, lentils, pine nuts and cilantro to bowl with kale. (Wild rice and lentils can be slightly warm but not hot)

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  • Just before serving,  toss with vinaigrette.  Serve with crumbled feta or goat cheese, if desired.

Kale Salad with Lentils and Wild Rice

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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1/2 cup dry wild rice
1/2 cup dry lentils (green, black or brown)
1 large or 2 smaller tomatoes, finely diced
2 cups kale, thinly sliced
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup cilantro or parsley, chopped
2-3 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup crumbled feta (optional)

VINAIGRETTE

¼ cup Olive Oil
1 Tbsn lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1/4 tsp coriander
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt

  • Cook the wild rice according to package instructions (about 45 minutes). Remove from heat and let cool, uncovered.
  • Cook the lentils according to package instructions but make sure they don’t get too soft.  They should be firm enough to maintain their shape.  Remove from heat and let cool, uncovered.
  • Toast pine nuts in a dry pan over medium heat until golden brown.  Remove from heat and let cool
  • Wash kale and remove the thick center rib.  Stack kale and slice thinly crosswise.  Place in a large serving bowl.
  • Whisk together all vinaigrette ingredients and set aside.
  • Transfer wild rice, lentils, pine nuts and cilantro to bowl with kale. (Wild rice and lentils can be slightly warm but not hot)
  • Just before serving,  toss with vinaigrette.  Serve with crumbled feta or goat cheese, if desired.

 

 

Meatless Monday – Savory Lentil and Brown Rice Pilaf

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Savory Lentils and Brown Rice Pilaf was born out of pure laziness, coupled with my love for lentils and savory/spicy food.  It was raining and I didn’t want to battle the Christmas shoppers for parking or stand in line to purchase ingredients which I would then have to lug home and turn into dinner. If you find the ‘dinner question’ to be an ordeal every day, how about an easy alternative?  Look no further than your pantry for commonly stocked items like, rice and lentils.  throw in a few dried spices and dinner is on the table.  Easy peasy!  Your pantry not very well stocked?  Well there is a simple solution to that; Stock it!  Your world becomes a lot easier if you can make dinner without having to do that last minute grocery store run, especially in the winter when gardens are not as prolific and fresh produce is harder to find.

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If you’re not sure what to stock in your pantry, consider the non perishable foods that you eat regularly; pasta, beans, olive oil, vinegar, tomato sauce, chopped tomatoes, rice and other grains, broth or boullion. I like to throw in some specialty items like canned hearts of palm or artichoke hearts which help transcend an otherwise boring salad into something special.  If you bake at all, include flour, sugar, salt, your favorite spices, and cooking oil. You will also want to keep ingredients that you use frequently on hand that are perishable but can last days or weeks on your counter like fresh onions, garlic, tomatoes, potatoes and other root vegetables. Don’t forget to use your freezer as an extension of your pantry (and not just for ice cream).  Mine is stocked with nuts and frozen vegetables.  Your pantry should reflect the kinds of foods you like to eat. If you like Italian food, you should have a supply of pasta, tomatoes and Italian herbs like basil and oregano.  If you like Mediterranean food, stock your pantry with grains and legumes plus spices like cumin, ginger and allspice.  If are a list person or just beginning to stock a kitchen pantry, check out this List of Basic Pantry Ingredients from Basic Cooking to get yourself started.

Otherwise start shopping in your own pantry!  Perhaps you want to start with this yummy but healthy ‘one pot’ recipe…

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TIPS:  Lentils are a wonderful addition to any meal.  You can add to salads, soups or stews.  Red and yellow lentils are softer and best for soups and stews.  If you want the lentil to hold it’s shape, use the firmer green or black lentils.  The regular brown lentils will work too but will cook faster (get soft and split), so I would add those in after 10 minutes or so.  I have listed the spices as 1 or 2 teaspoons, depending on how much spice you like.  The kind of broth you use will also determine how much additional salt and spice you need.  I would recommend adding 1 teaspoon of the spices when you add the broth, stir to combine and taste.  Then add salt and more spice to your taste.

SAVORY LENTIL AND BROWN RICE  PILAF

1 Tbsn sesame oil (or olive oil)
1 medium onion, diced
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup long grained brown rice
1 cup lentils (preferably green or black firm lentils)
1-2 tsp allspice
1-2 tsp curry powder
1-2 tsp turmeric
1-2 tsp ginger powder
1/2-1 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
6 cups vegetable broth
salt to taste
2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup pistachios, shelled (optional)
1/2 cup raisins, purple or golden (optional)

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  • Saute onion and garlic in  a heavy, wide pan until slightly soft.  Add rice and stir until aromatic. Add lentils and stir to coat.

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  • Add water and the smaller amount of spices. Taste the broth, then add salt and additional spices as needed. Cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes.

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  • Remove from heat and let stand 5 to 10 minutes.

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  • Stir in peas, and fluff with a fork. Top with raisins and pistachios if desired.

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Savory Lentil and Brown Rice Pilaf

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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1 Tbsn sesame oil (or olive oil)
1 medium onion, diced
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup long grained brown rice
1 cup lentils (preferably green or black firm lentils)
1-2 tsp allspice
1-2 tsp curry powder
1-2 tsp turmeric
1-2 tsp ginger powder
1/2-1 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
6 cups vegetable broth
salt to taste
2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup pistachios, shelled (optional)
1/2 cup raisins, purple or golden (optional)

  • Saute onion and garlic in  a heavy, wide pan until slightly soft.  Add rice and stir until aromatic.
  • Add lentils and stir to coat.
  • Add water and spices. Taste the broth, then add salt and additional spices as needed. Cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Stir in peas, and fluff with a fork. Top with raisins and pistachios if desired.

 

 

Meatless Monday-Warm Lentil Salad with Roasted Squash & Shaved Brussels Sprouts

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Is it really still winter?  You would never know it by the sun shining outside on this beautiful morning. (Sorry my East Coast friends…)  I’m still hoping for more than four days of rain before I will admit to Spring. Days are still short though,so there isl a chill to the air by dinnertime calling for hearty dishes to fill the belly.   Winter vegetables like gorgeous butternut squash and Brussels sprouts are abundant and so delicious!  Each one of these dishes is great on its own but combine them with lentils and you’ve got a winner.

I am pretty passionate about lentils.  They come in many colors and sizes and I love them all.  Brown and red lentils are great in soups and stews but my absolute favorite is the French green lentil (Le Puy) which is considered the top dog in the lentil world.  Lentils are actually named for their lens shape (Lens culinaris) and green lentils maintain this shape when cooked which is why they don’t get mushy.   Green lentils are delicious  and can transform a salad or side dish into a protein packed meal.   Lentils have the third highest amount of protein of any legume or nut (after soybeans and hemp) and contain dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals, including iron. For this recipe I added roasted red pepper which gives the lentils a distinctive flavor.  Roasting peppers is very easy but in a pinch you can also buy them in jars already roasted.  They can be roasted in the oven on high heat, on your grill or over an open flame on your stove.  I just put the whole pepper on the lowest rack in my oven while preheating it for the squash and turned it every 5 minutes or so to char on all four sides.  Then let it cool in a paper bag and the skin slips off really easily.  Tossing the lentils in vinaigrette is the final touch and gives you a chance to add fresh herbs and spices.

Butternut squash is another versatile and nutrient rich food.  It can be roasted, mashed, stuffed, pureed and baked into muffins and casseroles.  My favorite way to prepare squash is very simple, drizzled with olive oil and roasted with salt and pepper.  Sometimes I splash a bit of balsamic vinegar over it before cooking to intensify the gorgeous orange color and bring out its natural sweetness.

My husband loves Brussels sprouts and I am always looking for new ways to prepare them. Right now they are in season so its a good time to add them into your diet if you haven’t already.   Brussels sprouts are another food powerhouse, in the cruciferous family like broccoli and kale. They contain sulforaphane which is believed to have anticancer properties and indole-3-carbinol which boosts DNA repair and is thought to block the growth of cancer cells.  Boiling Brussels sprouts somewhat lessens their cancer fighting potency (probably the good stuff gets thrown out with the water) but roasting and sautéing does not.  (Wikipedia)  In this dish, I have paired them with sliced shallots, garlic and toasted pumpkin seeds for a tasty and pretty dish.

Warm Lentil Salad

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 cup green lentils
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 red bell pepper or  4 oz jar roasted red peppers
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1 shallot, finely diced
1 clove garlic, chopped fine
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 Tbsn red wine vinegar
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp dry mustard
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsn crumbled feta(optional)
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  • Roast whole red pepper in a hot oven or over an open flame turning to char all four sides.  Put in a paper bag and let cool.  Remove peel and seeds.  Cut into small dice.

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  • Saute shallot and garlic in 1 tablespoon oil.  Add vegetable broth and lentils and  simmer lentils 15 or 20 minutes, or until just soft but not mushy. Set aside with lid off to stop the cooking process.
  •  To make vinaigrette, combine red wine vinegar, balsamic, 2 tablespoons olive oil,, garlic, mustard and cumin in a medium bowl with a fork or whisk. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  •  Place the lentils, peppers and cilantro in a medium bowl.
  •  Toss with vinaigrette and top with feta if desired.

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Roasted Butternut Squash with Cumin and Balsamic

1 butternut squash
2 Tbsn olive oil
1-2 Tbsn balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp cumin
salt and pepper to taste
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  • Peel and seed squash.  Sometimes this is easier if you cut it in half and then crosswise in  half again. Cut into 1 inch dice.
  • Place in a glass pan and drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle with cumin, salt and pepper and a splash of balsamic vinegar.
  • Roast in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes, stirring several times, until soft.

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Shaved Brussels Sprouts and Shallot Saute

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 3/4 pounds brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
12 medium shallots, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons pine nuts or pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Thinly slice brussels sprouts into circles.  Easiest done with a food processor or mandolin. Don’t worry if you end up with some loose pieces.
  • Roast pine nuts or pepitas in a small dry pan for several minutes until they turn golden.  Remove from heat and set aside.
  • Saute shallots in butter and olive oil in large pan over medium heat.  about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute.
  • Increase heat to medium high and add brussels sprouts, sauté until tender, about 8 minutes.
  • Add pine nuts and lemon juice.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve warm.

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