If you cast your mind back, waaaayyyy back to the end of last May — yes, almost a year ago — you might recall that I made a lovely (says me) southwest shaved cauliflower salad featuring Brussels sprouts, radishes and carrots in addition to the crisp white star of the dish.
I’d bought a massive head of cauliflower and used only half of it for that recipe. Then a couple of days later I used the rest of it to show how the same vegetables can be showcased in two very different salads. Thing was, I didn’t want to post two cauliflower salads in quick succession. Trust me, I love cauliflower, but that was a lot of it to eat in the space of a week. Quite possibly too much. Just sayin’.
So, I decided to save the second recipe for later, and somehow here it is the end of April 2014. Surely by now you’re ready for another cauliflower salad?
I used the same ingredients except for yellow pepper instead of Brussels sprouts, but instead of finely shaving everything this time I went for a chunkier texture. I broke the cauliflower down into small florets, cut the radishes into wedges and turned the carrots and the pepper into small batons. A small change like changing the shape of the vegetables makes a big difference in presentation, as you can see from this photo of the shaved salad.
I dressed cooked beluga lentils (green, French or brown lentils would also work nicely) in an Asian-influenced dressing with rice wine vinegar, fish sauce and other good stuff. They added great visual appeal to the salad, as well as texture and protein. Gotta love those lentils!
So, altogether a very different salad from the first one. It tasted even better on the second day … a good thing, because we couldn’t get through it all at once. Like kale, which cauliflower has replaced as the sexy vegetable trend, you can only eat so much on a daily basis.
Asian-Inspired Cauliflower and Beluga Lentil Salad
While glossy black beluga lentils contrast so nicely with the creamy white cauliflower florets, feel free to use green, French Puy or brown lentils in their place. After all, it’s your salad. Note, I’ve indicated that salt and pepper are to taste. Fish sauce is salty, so if you’re adding additional salt be restrained. It’s easy to add more; harder to deal with having too much.
- small shallot, cut in half lengthwise then thinly sliced
- splash rice wine vinegar
- cold water
- 6 cups small florets of cauliflower (about 1/2 a large head)
- 1 cup carrot batons (about 1-1/2″ long by 1/8″ wide, if you want to get precise about it)
- 1 yellow pepper cut into batons of a similar size to the carrot
- 4 radishes, each cut into 8 wedges
- 3 tbsp neutral oil like grapeseed
- 5 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1/2 to 1 red chill pepper, seeded and minced
- 1-1/2 cups cooked beluga lentils (about 1/2 cup dry)
- handful cilantro, finely chopped
- (optional) kosher salt to taste, as determined by your finely discerning palate
Place the sliced shallots in a small bowl, add a splash of rice wine vinegar and then cover with cold water. Let them soak while you’re industriously prepping the rest of the vegetables.
Lob the cauliflower, carrot and pepper batons and radish wedges into a large bowl. Drain the shallots well and add.
Prepare the dressing by whisking together the oil, vinegar, fish sauce and ground pepper. Then stir in the chill pepper, lentils and cilantro. Dip a vegetable piece or two into the dressing to determine if you need to adjust the seasonings or the balance of ingredients. Keep in mind, though, that the flavours will develop as the salad sits.
Pour the dressing over the vegetables and combine until well distributed. Serve right away or cover and refrigerate up to a day or two.