Saturday, May 17, 2014

Savory Lentil Apple Salad

           A few weeks ago, I tried a recipe for a lentil salad with apples and a slightly creamy curried salad dressing. Although not bad, it wasn’t something I loved enough to write about. But it was visually appealing with the red apples so when I needed a side dish for a sort of Middle Eastern dinner, I tried it again.
      This time I used a different spice mixture, and left out the cream. I love the flavor of cardamom and ground coriander together, so I thought I’d try that. Normally I would use lemon juice to keep the apples from turning brown but oddly (for me) I had no lemons. Instead I used the juice and zest of a small orange. It was a perfect complement to the dressing.
       I used sherry wine vinegar, since it’s not as sharp as the red wine vinegar called for in the original recipe, and added a touch of honey. If you don’t have sherry vinegar, cider vinegar would work, but you might want to add a bit more honey to your dressing. Mix the salad all together and taste.
       For salads, the best lentils are the green French lentils, also known as “lentilles du Puy.” They don’t need to be soaked and stay firmer after cooking than brown ones. They are available at Fresh Market and some supermarkets. If you want to use the brown lentils, watch very carefully near the end of cooking to make sure they don’t turn mushy.
       I love this salad. I served it slightly warm for the dinner, but leftovers were good straight from the fridge for a couple of days. This would be a perfect dish for a picnic, when the weather finally turns a little warmer.
       Lentils are high in protein and fiber so it would also make a great lunch on a bed of greens.

Middle Eastern Lentil-Apple Salad

1 cup green lentils
4 cups water
1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup minced shallot (or red onion)
1 ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground coriander
¼ cup sherry wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
2 crisp red apples (Gala or Fuji)
1 small orange, rinsed off and dried

       Sort through the lentils to make sure there is no debris. Put the lentils, water and salt into a saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook until just barely done. This could take as little as 15 minutes or up to 25, depending on the age of the lentils. Start tasting after 15 minutes.
       Meanwhile, over medium heat, heat the olive oil in a large skillet and cook the shallots until soft but not browned. Add the cardamom and coriander and cook, stirring, about a minute. Add the wine vinegar and honey, bring just to a simmer. Turn off the heat and reserve in the pan.
       Grate the zest from the orange into a medium bowl. Squeeze the juice and put ½ cup into the bowl. Cut each apple into eight wedges from blossom to stem end. Turn the wedges on the side and slice. Add to the bowl with the orange juice and toss to cover all the surfaces of the apple.
       When the lentils are done, drain and then put into the pan with the shallot mixture. Toss together, then add the apples with all the juice and zest of the orange and toss again.
       I didn’t think it needed salt but taste and add salt if needed. If serving warm, let it sit for about 10 minutes, then taste to see if you think it needs a touch more honey.

Serves 6 to 8 as a side dish, or 4 as a main dish

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