I remember when I was in high school and we had family dinners at my mom’s house on the weekend, we would sometimes eat in the dinning room and have courses. There would be a little appetizer, a salad, and a main course. Dessert was usually popcorn in front of the TV, or bowls of ice cream (mom didn’t bake much after grade school, aside from the occasional banana bread or gingersnaps). One of the things about the food that has stuck with me is my mom’s salads.
Joel LOVES cheese sticks. I’m talking about those kind you had as a kid, the mozzarella string cheese sticks that you could pull and pull and make last for an hour. Yea, as an adult, he still loves them. Honestly, sometimes he gets low blood sugar and it’s not a bad idea to have them around if dinner is taking a little too long-er then I meant for it to take. So we’ve made a habit of buying them and I’m always looking for new varieties. I bought these fresh mozzarella sticks at Safeway the other day (A. they were on sale. So, yea, you got me. B. Fresh mozzarella? Yum! Maybe he’ll like those…) But in reality, peeling the wrapper back and having that little bit of liquid spill out isn’t…uh… exactly appetizing and doesn’t make for great finger food. Needless to say, these were not his favorite cheese sticks. So, I repurposed them into this salad!
Summer is the perfect time to have salad for dinner. But to make it satisfying, you need to keep it interesting. Try adding one element from each of the following taste categories:
Salty: Prosciutto, bacon (any cured meat, really), salted nuts, aged cheese like asiago or parmesan.
Sweet: fruit, small chunks of roasted sweet potato, roasted or raw mushrooms, dried fruit, fruit based vinaigrette or dressing such as a raspberry or strawberry balsamic dressing.
Crunchy: Nuts, seeds, croutons, crunchy bits of apple or carrot (which could also satisfy the “sweet” category) even crispy bacon or roasted chickpeas. Sometimes I just slice up some cabbage and add it in with the other lettuces I’m using and that alone adds some needed crunch!
Creamy: Oooh yea, cheese is my go to here. Goat cheese, bleu cheese, the fresh mozzarella, or anything that will linger on your tongue a little longer. I like to think meat here too, like steak, roasted chicken, even pork belly or bits of slow cooked meats like pork or beef roasts. Basically creamy means fatty – you want a little bit of a fat element. Maybe it’s just a drizzle of olive oil, some avocado chunks, or a couple dollops of greek yogurt. Tofu and eggplant could even be considered creamy, given the right context (roasted eggplant and silken tofu especially).
Of course, there’s always sour (pickled beets – pickled anything really, buttermilk dressing, capers, lemon zest/juice or some fruits like pomegranate) or spicy (sliced chili, raw onion, arugula, cayenne on those spiced nuts, or radish) and bitter (parsley, grapefruit, chard, radicchio, dandelion, and probably many other things I am missing at the moment). But let’s not overwhelm ourselves, shall we?
The important thing when building a good salad, one that you will really love to eat rather then loath, gobble down rather then begrudgingly eat and savor rather then suffer… is that you have some variety and a little bit of indulgence with it. Make it special, and you won’t go searching for sustenance beyond the salad bowl.
You don’t have to have all of these categories represented at one time, but it’s nice to have two or three (with the basis of some sort of lettuce or greens). For us, a simple weeknight salad that goes alongside a more involved main dish, will likely include just one or two other things besides dressing. I might just quickly chop some onion slices and grate a carrot, then add some olive oil and a few dashes rice wine vinegar to the top. Or perhaps I have a cherry tomato or two I can slice up and top the greens with along with a little snipped chive from the garden and (in the lucky event) a coating of homemade buttermilk dressing leftover from some weekend cooking session. Often, I add a small handful of sunflower seeds, because the crunch is satisfying and I know that is what “makes” a salad for Joel. It is for me too, really, I need to have a crunch in my salad, wether that comes from the lettuce, the raw onion or some nuts… somehow a salad is much more sustaining (and keeps me away from chips and other snacks in the afternoon) if it involves a bit of a bite.
By the way, walnuts are my special hybrid… if I have some good spiced or sugared walnuts on hand, they can be about 3 or 4 of the categories at once. I’ll have to show you some good candied nut recipes this fall… they are so easy and so much better then store-bought.
So, that’s how this salad came about. I needed a way to use up these fresh mozz cheese sticks and I have been craving stone fruit. But in Oregon, it’s tough to know exactly when the stone fruit will be at it’s peak! Often times I’ll buy a peach or a nectarine only to have it be mealy and bland when I cut into it at home. So this method of quick pickling the fruit with a little sugar, thinly sliced onion and seasoning gives you a little grace on the ripeness of the fruit. If it isn’t perfectly ripe, the vinegar helps bring out whatever flavor is there, while the sugar rounds it out and mellows any tanginess. And if it is ripe it’s still just as good. These were just ripe, and still a little firm, which is perfect.
Light, healthy and satisfying. Perfect summer dinner or lunch!
Salad with Pickled Nectarines, Mozz and Proscuitto
Serves: 2 servings
2 nectarines, thinly sliced
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar, white wine vinegar or red wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
2 large handfuls field greens
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
olive oil for drizzling
2 ounces fresh mozzarella or cheese sticks, cut or torn into 1-inch pieces
2 slices prosciutto
1/4 cup thinly slices white onion or red onion
Toss nectarines, onion, vinegar, and sugar in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper. Let sit 10 minutes to marinate.
Divide the greens evenly between two salad bowls and drizzle lightly with olive oil.
Spoon the pickled nectarines and onions over the greens, adding a little of the pickling liquid on to the greens as well. You can sort of sprinkle it with the spoon over the greens as part of the dressing.
Slice the prosciutto into long and skinny ribbons, and drape them over the greens and the nectarines.
Layer the basil leaves in a small stack and roll them into a little cigar shape. Starting the top, slice into ribbons. Sprinkle evenly all over each salad.
Scatter the mozzarella over the salads.
Add an additional sprinkle of salt and pepper and serve with or without sliced bread.
Grocery shopping is something I would consider one of my hobbies. When I have a few extra hours in the day, I usually spend about 10 minutes trying to think of an excuse to go to a grocery store, then I spend the next pocket of time perusing the aisles, smelling produce, and hunting around for something unique to take home. I would also call it a skill. I make mental notes of who has the best herbs that week, what price the potatoes are, and how fresh the meat looks. These pieces of grocer information get stored away until my next pocket of a few hours, where I promptly go to whatever store has won me over with my memory of their selection of exotic cured meats, or their bouquet-worthy tarragon.
My last visit to one of my favorites was a few weeks ago. I had errands to do and a meeting in Portland, so I stopped in to Barbur World Foods. I had eaten a doughnut, but that was hours ago. I’m hungry, which is a dangerous place to be when I walk into a grocery store. When I asked a lady stocking shelves which brand of dolmas was the best she said, “You mean other then the ones in our deli?” Deli!? My mind must have been elsewhere. I retraced my steps. Yep, how did I walk by and not look at that giant glass case?
I ask for eight dolmas, half vegetarian and half meat. While the tall guy behind the counter was getting my order, I spied a rustic looking salad in the case. “Excuse me, what’s in this salad? That spice, I’ve never heard of it. Rahz eel han out?” I stumble through it, suddenly self-conscious. He chuckled and said “Yea, that’s a hard one for me too. (I noticed he avoided repeating it) It’s like a blend of spices, like a curry powder, everyone makes it a little different.” Oooh. I was intrigued. I ordered some of the salad too and went off down the spice aisle looking for this Ras el Hanout.
Later, at home, I dug into the salad. It was a little sweet, with the carrots and the onions, and then a warm spicy heat that slowly built on itself, but wasn’t overpowering. I was addicted! I especially loved the large leaves of flat leaf parsley.
I had to know more about this Ras el Hanout. I guess it is like curry! There’s no definitive recipe for it, and it’s name means “head of the shop” or “top shelf” in Arabic. It’s used in North African and Moroccan dishes, and is often used on meats as a rub, in rice or in couscous. Don’t be too impressed with my knowledge, I learned it all from wikipedia.
This salad is easy, a little spicy, and perfect for a picnic because it’s really delicious at room temperature.
First, make the “rub.” Add the Ras el Hanout, some minced up garlic, ground ginger, salt and pepper together in a small bowl.
Add in some olive oil and make a loose paste.
Chop up those veggies! I used a couple carrots, some parsnips, a medium red onion, some baby red potatoes and two small russet potatoes.
Drizzle the rub on the vegetables.
Toss them and rub in the spice mixture. It’s easiest to just get in there with your hands!
While the vegetables roast, get your parsley ready. You’ll need about a cup. I just pricked them off the stems and left a couple whole attached in small sprigs.
When the vegetables come out of the oven, they might need just a little more olive oil on them. Add in the parsley leaves and gently toss together.
Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.
I hope you take a trip to Barbur Foods if you are in the Portland area, or try your own version of Ras el Hanout! Either way, enjoy your grocery shopping and try something new. Now I’m off to make a big bowl of popcorn with coconut oil and Ras el Hanout…
A couple of notes for success: The key to nicely roasted vegetables is threefold (I’ve made a lot of bad roasted vegetables, so I learned these the hard way):
Give them a good coating of oil, and if you are worried about them sticking you might as well oil the pan too. This is different for squash, which fairs better if you only oil the pan and not the squash itself (I find it gets too slimy if also coasted in oil, but that’s another blog post.)
Allow for plenty of space on the sheet pan. Crowding too many vegetables onto one sheet pan is my downfall; don’t fall prey to this mistake.
Do not try to stir them too soon before they’ve browned a bit on the bottom. Usually this is after 20 minutes of undisturbed roasting time.
I use sheet pans that have a 1″ side on all sides. I use them for just about everything, even cookies. I don’t see the point of side-less sheet pans (well, okay, maybe that’s an overstatement.) My favorite ones are made by Chicago Metallic and you can buy them at kitchen supply stores or here. They are technically called jelly roll pans.
Moroccan Roasted Root Vegetable Salad
Recipe Type: Salad, Side Dish
Serves: 6 servings
1 medium red onion, peeled and each end trimmed off
3 very small russet potatoes (or 1 large)
8 small red potatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons Ras el Hanout
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional if needed for tossing
1 cup flat leaf parsley
Preheat the oven to 425 with the racks placed in the middle and lower third positions.
In a small bowl, mix together the minced garlic, Ras el Hanout, ginger, salt and pepper. Add in the olive oil, mixing to make a paste. Set aside.
Wash all the vegetables well. Chop them into large chunks; the carrots and parsnips into 2” long spears, sliced in half lengthwise if they are thick, the onion into 1” wedges, the red potatoes cut in half and the russets cut into long, lengthwise 1” wedges. Divide the vegetables between two large sheet pans that have a 1” side on all sides.
Drizzle the spice paste over the vegetables, dividing evenly between the two trays. With your hands, mix up each tray of vegetables with the paste well, literally rubbing the olive oil all over the surfaces of the vegetables, especially the potatoes. This will help them from sticking and loosing those delicious brown bits to the bottom of the sheet pan.
Roast for 25 minutes, gently toss and rotate the sheet pans, top to bottom and front to back, then roast for another 10 minutes.
Remove the pans of vegetables from the oven and let cool until warm or right around room temperature. Combine the vegetables onto one sheet pan, and sprinkle the parsley leaves over them. Drizzle with a little extra olive oil and toss.
This is that ubiquitous salad. That one with the mayonnaise and the cheddar cheese cubes. The one that probably showed up at hundreds of church potlucks and picnic tables. Sometimes I just crave these things that are supremely sentimental and simple. I loved those church potlucks. Mostly the food, but always the choices! I always took too much food (isn’t that what kids are supposed to do?) and I loved the way the dressing from my ambrosia would melt into the sliced ham and fried chicken. I think that was the origins of my sweet/salty obsession, and my NEED for honey on crunchy chicken skin.
So here we are, no potluck in sight, but this salad takes me back.
I love to think about picnics. Not really the place or the lawn games, or even who is there (is that rude?) I just think about the food. Salads, green, fruit, meat and otherwise, are my favorite for eating out of doors. Chicken salad? Yes. Fruit salad? Oh yea. Pea salad? Hell yea. I could go on and on. This salad is simple, classic, and tasty. It’s got a little too much dairy to rightfully be a “healthy” salad, but peas DO have protein…. so that counts, right?
Let’s get this potluck food on the road!
We chop up the things that need chopping and defrost the things that are frozen (namely, the peas). Aaand we scoop out some mayo. It’s necessary!
Make the dressing: use part of the mayo you think you’ll need, and then add the lemon juice, dill and pepper. Take a sip of coffee and channel your grandmother.
Then add the onion and water chestnuts.
Now add in the peas.
Add the cheese.
Presto. Pea salad like the church ladies made.
Vintage Pea Salad
Recipe Type: Salad, Snacks
Author: Sugar Pickles
Serves: 5 cups
1/4- 1/3 cup mayonnaise (depending on your taste)
Juice from 1/2 a large lemon
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill, chopped
Pepper to taste
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 of a medium red onion, chopped or minced
1/4 cup water chestnuts, chopped
1 bag frozen peas, thawed
6 oz mild cheddar cheese, chopped into 1/2” cubes
Set all your chopped ingredients aside.
To a medium bowl, add about half the amount of mayonnaise you are using. Save the other half for the end, when you can adjust the amount of mayonnaise. This prevents the salad from ending up with too much dressing.
Add the lemon juice, chopped dill and some freshly ground black pepper to the mayonnaise. Stir in the sugar and taste. Does it need more pepper? More lemon? Don’t proceed until it tastes good to you! When you’ve made your adjustments, stir in the chopped onion, water chestnuts, and dill.
Dump in the peas and carefully toss. Add in the cheese when the peas are mostly mixed and continue to toss everything together.
Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight. This is lovely eaten over the next few days, or taken to a picnic to get gobbled up.
I’m a beet lover. I’m sure you could tell. I haven’t gone so far as to make a beet chocolate cake (yet) but I do love a good beet juice, beet kombucha, and this… gorgeous beet salad.
This salad has a fantastic dressing! I want to make this orange dressing for other salads too, but it really works here to brighten up the earthy beet.
Goat cheese and walnuts add texture contrast and good little “nuggets” to find as you’re eating this salad. This is one of those salads that could easily be dinner in my house, just add a little chicken or some toasted bread! I think for a mom lunch it would also be perfect.
The only thing about this salad: you’ve got to roast those beets! The two colors, golden and red, offer color and flavor depth. Golden beets are sweeter then red beets, so if you’ve got someone that might not love beets, GO FOR THE GOLD! (sorry, had to do that.) But they are much easier to please more choosey palates.
I’ve also found that the trick with salads is, put on a ton of different toppings! It makes it more interesting and filling, and you don’t feel like you are eating a bowl full of lettuce. Add different vegetables, fruits and a little cheese and nuts or seeds, and it feels like a meal! Salads can be fun, and filling!
2 large beets, one red and one golden or both the same, scrubbed and trimmed tops
2 navel oranges
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for cooking the beets
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
coarse salt and pepper
2 large handfuls mixed field greens, spinach or arugula
5 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup toasted walnuts*
1/4 cup fresh dill, roughly chopped
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a square of aluminum foil underneath each beet. Drizzle a tiny bit of oil on each one and sprinkle with a dash of salt and pepper. Wrap the foil around each beet so that it is completely covered, and place on a baking sheet in the preheated oven. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the tip of a sharp knife easily pierces the beet. Let cool and cut into wedges. You can also slip the peels off by rubbing the skin with your hands or a paper towel. Wear latex gloves to avoid the red-stained hands of a beet lover.
Make the dressing and slice the oranges: over a small bowl, zest each orange. Slice both ends of one of the orange off and cut away the orange peel and the pith. Cut the orane segments off, using a pairing knife, and place the orange segments in aside while you collect any juice into the bowl with the zest. Squeeze the membranes of the orange to get all the juice and you can carefully pour in any collected juice from the segments that has fallen to the bottom of their bowl as well.
In the bowl with the juice and zest, mix in the olive oil, white wine vinegar, mustard and season with a little salt and pepper
Assemble the salad: you can toss the dressing with the salad now, or wait until just before serving if you are preparing this recipe ahead of time. In a large bowl or on salad plates, lay down a bed of greens, arrange some beet wedges, orange segments and crumbled goat cheese. Top with toasted walnuts and a scattering of the fresh dill. Drizzle dressing over the salad and serve.
Toasting walnuts in the oven: this method is good for large amounts as well as small amounts. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.[br]Place nuts in a single layer in an ungreased, shallow pan or rimmed cookie sheet in order to prevent spillage.[br]Bake 5 to 10 minutes or until the nuts are golden brown.[br][br]Toasting walnuts on the stove top: this method is good for small amounts.[br]Heat walnuts in a dry, heavy skillet over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes or until golden brown and smell toasted.[br]Since the nuts will burn easily in a skillet, you must stir constantly to ensure even toasting until the nuts turn a rich, golden brown.
I like to make a salad a meal, with many different textures, flavors that compliment or contrast, and things that crunch. It’s so much more satisfying to eat that way. With salad, you can go a million different ways, but you will get the best results if you use mostly things that are in season. This salad sort of felt like winter when I threw it together, so I like to call it a winter salad. It’s crunchy and cold and mild and sweet.
This salad has fennel in it. I have been reading this little vintage pamphlet (not the religious kind) that is all about salads called (appropriately) Good Housekeepings Book of Salads, Some of the suggestions are pretty hilarious, but the book is also full of good information and tips too. I learned how to cut fennel based on this book.
It discusses the best ways to cut tomatoes and fennel, how to store lettuces, and advises to “pick out crisp, young perky greens.” Well, if that isn’t good advice, I don’t know what is.
Vintage cookbooks are something I’ve got a bit of a collection of. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know I like to collect things. I collect cake stands, metal trays, baskets, thermoses, and coffee cups. I’ll try to share more of my curations with you this year, they bring me such a joy.
So, I mentioned that this book talks about how to cut fennel. When I read this in bed one night (where I do all my good reading) it seemed like a revelation. When I put it into practice I wondered how I had never done it that way before. In this book there is a recipe for fennel salad that describes the process. Basically, if you’ve seen people cut an onion on the food network, then you know how to do this.
You start by trimming the top (the fronds end) of a rinsed off fennel bulb, leaving the root/bulb end in tact. Then you set the root end down on the cutting board, so that your newly cut end is up, facing you. Make parrallel cuts down, 1/2 inch apart, all the way to the root end but not cutting all the way through. Then make similar cuts, at a right angle to the first cuts, making a sort of grid of cut squares on the fennel bulb. Then, take the fennel and lay it on it’s side on the cutting board and start slicing. The chopped cubes of fennel fall off as you slice all the way down to the root. Magic, right? Yet totally logical.
Some things about these old cookbooks are like that. And others are… just plain weird. Among the weirder of the recipes I found in here: a recipe called Asparagus Hump (really?) which includes frozen asparagus on top of lettuce with a capered sour cream dressing, and another one called Green-Lima-and-Apple Salad, which is pretty much how it sounds with the addition of garlic french dressing.
But I do love these relics of our culinary history. There’s inspiration in these pages for me, ways to turn vintage into new again and ways to re-imagine the way women used to cook decades ago.
This salad has butter lettuce, red cabbage, celery, red bell pepper, green onion, fennel, toasted almond slices, goat cheese, and Caesar dressing. You could probably swap out the Caesar for any ranch-type of dressing you have, but the garlicky boost was really good in this salad combination. The veggies really stand up to sitting around too, if you make it for lunch in the morning it would still be crispy by the time you get to it. I do recommend waiting until just before eating to top with the toasted almonds.
Crisp Winter Salad
Recipe Type: Salad
Author: Sugar Pickles
Serves: 1 serving
6-8 leaves butter lettuce, washed and dried and roughly torn into bite sized pieces
1/3 cup shredded red cabbage
1/3 cup sliced celery
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped fennel
1/8 cup sliced green onions
1/4 cup toasted sliced or slivered almonds
1/4-1/3 cup goat cheese crumbles
3 tablespoons Caesar dressing
Place the lettuce leaves in a bowl.
Top with the cabbage, celery, red bell pepper, fennel, onions and goat cheese.
Pour the dressing all over the salad.
Sprinkle the almonds over the top of the salad and serve.
I think a good sandwich is really important. Making a truly good sandwich is a sort of a balancing act, and it’s not always as simple or straightforward as a good old PB&J.
It has to be structurally sound, so it doesn’t explode in your hands or all over your shirt. It needs to have the right amount of crunch, sour, sweet and salty. And it needs an element of cream or fat to keep you satisfied long after you eat it. Sandwiches can have two slices of bread, or they can be in a pocket. Pockets help with that whole explosion factor, and since I tend to get my food all over me, I need all the help I can get.
This sandwich uses homemade pitas. You can make the pitas days in advance, just store them in the fridge and slice them in half and open up the inside pockets as you are ready to use them. If you want, you could substitute any gluten free pita, bread or wrap.
Tomato harissa sauce ads a little sweet and tangy heat. It contrasts with the creamy (surprisingly vegan) filling.
The biggest challenge with creating this sandwich is the chopping, I’ll admit. But if you mix this all up on a Sunday afternoon, you’ll have enough for two peoples lunches for the week, so think of it as an investment in your future lunches. A julienne peeler can help with the carrots and parsnips. Julienne them then roughly chop the pieces and it’s almost faster then a food processor, or at least a lot less to clean up afterwards.
I also like to split the thick ends of the celery before chopping it all down the rib, it helps to make the pieces more even in size.
Soon, you’ll have a bowl full of chopped up goodness!
The beans are mashed and add to the smooth texture of this filling.
The other challenge might be filling the pita and spreading the sauce on the inside, but I’ve devised a little trick for you! When you open the pita up, use a spoon to spread the tomato harissa sauce all over the inside.
Then, take your piece of butter lettuce, roughly cut or folded in half to be the size of your pita half, and place it on your cutting board so that the natural shape of the lettuce curves up towards you. You want it to look like a little lettuce cup.
Spoon about a 1/4 cup to a 1/3 cup filling on top of the lettuce leaf, then with one hand hold the pocket open and with your other hand, slide the topped lettuce in to it. This ensures you have filling and lettuce all the way to the bottom of the pita and doesn’t smash the lettuce in the process.
Vegan Garbanzo and White Bean Salad Pita Pocket Sandwich
Recipe Type: Lunch
Author: Sugar Pickles
Serves: 6 cups
Using half red and half yellow bell pepper adds extra color, but it is not necessary. If you only have one or the other, just use the whole pepper. Greek yogurt would be a great addition, if you are not following a vegan diet.
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 green onions, thinly sliced
¼ white onion, chopped
¼ cup dill pickle, finely chopped
½ red bell pepper, finely chopped
½ yellow bell pepper, finely chopped
¼ cup shredded and chopped parsnip
¼ cup shredded and chopped carrot
4 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise
1 clove of garlic, minced
3 teaspoons yellow mustard
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Juice of one small lemon
½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper
Butter lettuce leaves
Roasted Tomato Harissa Sauce
In a large bowl, mash the chickpeas with a potato masher. Add in the white beans and mash until they are both a flaky texture.
Stir in the celery, green onions, pickles, bell peppers, shredded and chopped parsnip and carrots, vegan mayonnaise and garlic until well combined.
Stir in the mustard and parsley and squeeze the lemon juice over the mixture. Add in the salt, pepper and taste and adjust as necessary. You might want to add more vegan mayo to suit your needs.
To make the pita sandwiches, spread one tablespoon of the tomato harissa sauce on the inside of the pita pocket. Take a washed and dried piece of butter lettuce and spoon about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the salad on it. Then, opening the pita, slide the topped lettuce into the pita’s pocket.
This is my way of trying to keep promises to myself. Promises about eating right, eating less meat, and being more resourceful. Making promises to do better is great. I feel like I have mini-new year’s resolutions about every month. But the harder part seems to be keeping them. I can make really good promises, but acting on them takes work. I have started to understand that training your mind and your will power is like training your body. The more you exercise it, the stronger it gets!
So this is like my work out. For my mind and my lunch box. It starts with:
Lentils are something I have loved for awhile. Right up there with split pea and ham soup, marinated garbanzos, black beans with onions and garlic. Legumes are lovely.
This salad has all the flavors of fall too. Roasted butternut squash, cranberries, and red onion.
Goat cheese sprinkled on top… mmm. What? Oh. Right. Resolutions. I picked lentils because they are my “back on track” food. I can eat a bowl of lentils and feel like a super health nut. They kind of get me going in the right direction again, a little like a reset button. Bonus: they have a ton of fiber and protein and keep you full for hours.
The dressing on this is one I could put on almost any salad, it’s so good! Olive oil, honey, spices and a squirt of lemon juice adds brightness.
I put my lentils over some salad greens, but you can eat them just as they are.
I packed up this lunch and met my mom at a spot in between our two downtown office buildings. It happened to be a hotel lobby that had fancy chairs and a cozy fireplace. As the rain trickled down outside on the street, we dug in to our salads and felt pretty proud of ourselves. These resolutions just might keep.
Lentil Salad with butternut squash and cranberries
Recipe Type: Salad
Author: Sugar Pickles
Serves: 4 cups
2 ¼ cups (1 lb.) green lentils
1 medium red onion, diced
1 1/2 cups roasted and slightly cooled butternut squash, cubed (or thawed slightly if frozen)
1/3 cup cranberries
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 Tbsp. strong mustard
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
½ tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
Salt and pepper to taste
Squeeze of 1/2 a lemon
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1/3 cup goat cheese crumbles
Rinse lentils well, drain and place in a pot and cover with a 3-4 inches of water, bring to a boil, and reduce to simmer. Check lentils for doneness after 15 minutes, but they should take about 20 minutes in total. You will know they are cooked if they are still a bit firm. You do not want to over cook the lentils, or this salad will turn to mush!
While the lentils are simmering, make the dressing by placing all ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake to combine.
When the lentils are cooked, remove from heat, drain and return to the pot. Add the butternut squash and the cranberries. I like to add the cranberries while this lentils are still warm because the heat (and small amount of residual liquid) helps plump the berries up a bit.
While everything is still a little warm, pour the dressing over the lentil in the pot. The warmth will help the dressing flavor the lentils and squash. Give a squeeze of lemon juice over everything. Add some salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle a little freshly chopped parsley overt the top.
To serve: Place one handful of mixed greens in a bowl or lunch container, then scoop 1 and 1/2 cups of lentil salad on top and scatter some goat cheese crumbles over it. Serve, or pack for lunch.
This can be made a day or two ahead, and the lentils keep well in the fridge. You can even freeze this whole salad, in 1 1/2 cup portions, leaving the goat cheese out. Just thaw in the fridge the night before you want to eat it and top with cheese if desired.