Salads that pack a punch of protein and offer fresh-vegetable crunch are welcome not only on hot summer days when you want to minimize the heat in the kitchen, but year-round. This simple Lentil, Corn & Cauliflower Salad takes advantage of fresh corn when it’s in season, but you can easily substitute frozen corn. This version has a Middle-Eastern inspired dressing, but it’s easy to take it in another direction.
Am I the only one who doesn’t feel like cooking when the weather’s hot and humid? Salads that pack a punch of protein and fresh-vegetable crunch are a great one-dish way to ensure you’re getting your nourishment in without standing over a hot stove. Just use cooked lentils as a base, and build from there.
Granted, the lentils do have to be cooked, but they can made a few days ahead and kept in the fridge. If you need to cook them the day you’re making the salad, they only take about 15 minutes or so of simmering once they’ve come to a boil, so they won’t heat the kitchen up too much on a hot day. Here’s one of my earlier posts that talks about cooking lentils. Lately I’ve been cooking them with just some onion and garlic to add a little flavour, but you could even cook them plain and then flavour them up as you use them in specific dishes.
One quick digression: when you strain the cooked lentils, keep the cooking liquid. It’s golden. I freeze mine and use it as a stock for soups. You’re welcome.
The Low-Down on Lentils
Can we talk for just a moment about how incredibly nutritious lentils are? A half cup or 100 grams (uncooked) of dry large green lentils — the kind I used in this recipe — provides 112 percent of the daily value for fibre, and 50 percent of iron’s daily value. And there’s lots of other good-for-you stuff in those cheeky little orbs, like protein, potassium and more. Just check out the Canadian Lentils site for more information.
Lentils are also inexpensive and quick to cook. Unlike some other dried pulses, like chickpeas, they don’t have to be soaked before cooking.
This is probably a good time to mention that this isn’t a sponsored post. I simply believe more people should be aware of how nutritious, versatile and economical lentils are, and how they can be used in all sorts of recipes that you’ll return to time and again. Lentils are one of the ingredients that I’ve posted about over and over, for good reason.
Lentil, Corn & Cauliflower Salad
Getting back to this salad, I wanted to showcase corn and cauliflower, two vegetables that are available locally in abundance right now, and bring in a subtle Middle Eastern-inspired flavour profile, by using ingredients like sumac, cumin, mint and pomegranate molasses. Don’t worry, you can take the flavour in whatever direction you prefer by switching up the herbs, spices and ingredients in both the salad and the vinaigrette. Just check out the recipe notes for some ideas.
The result? A lightly dressed, full-meal salad that was pleasing to the eye and even more so to the palate. It offers not just flavour, but crunch and pop too. It’s just the ticket on a hot day, and I’d be happy to eat it on a cold day too.
The addition of lentils makes this a satisfying and nutritious main coursel salad. It's easy to make year-round if you use frozen corn kernels. Ground sumac and pomegranate molasses may not be in your pantry or even in a store near year. See the Notes section for ideas on alternate flavourings for both the corn and the vinaigrette.
- 1 ear sweet corn (about 3/4 to 1 cup; you can substitute frozen corn kernels)
- 1/2 tbsp olive or grapeseed oil
- 1/2 tsp ground sumac
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- 1-1/2 cups very small cauliflower florets (or just chop it if you'd rather not take the time to separate the florets)
- 1/2 small red onion, cut lengthwise and finely sliced
- 1 to 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
- 1-1/2 cups cooked large green lentils (or any lentil of your choice except red split lentils, which become mushy when cooked)
- freshly ground pepper to taste
- kosher or fine sea salt to taste
Preheat the barbecue or a griddle on medium high heat. If you don't have corn on the cob, you could use frozen corn and quickly stir-fry it in a hot pan with the oil and spices.
Shuck the ear of corn. Mix the oil and spices in a small bowl, then brush generously over the corn cob. Grill the cob, turning frequently until it starts to caramelize in some areas and the spices darken. Be careful: some of the kernels may pop and send oily spices flying around (yup, it got me!). This only takes a few minutes — you're not trying to cook the corn through. When done, remove the corn cob from the grill and set aside in a bowl to cool. Once it's cool enough to handle, stand the corn cob upright on its base in the bowl and carefully slice off the kernels.
Mix the spiced grilled corn kernels, cauliflower, onion, mint and lentils in a large bowl. Dress with the vinaigrette below, then add freshly ground pepper and salt to taste.
I appreciate that not everyone has access to or is willing to try some flavourings like ground sumac and pomegranate molasses. Even ground cumin may not be your thing. I flavoured this salad to my liking, and you can easily do the same to make this salad your own. Assuming you’re not going to use the sumac and molasses, here are a few ideas:
- Season the corn with ground cumin and chili powder
- Or, leave out the spices and simply season the corn with a bit of salt and pepper
- Not a fan of mint leaves or not willing to buy a package for one recipe? Just leave it out, or perhaps use dried mint if you have some on hand.
- If you have any fresh parsley or cilantro around, they would work well in this recipe—totally up to you!
I kept the flavours in this dressing fairly subtle and was pleased with how it worked with the salad, but if you want yours to be more flavour-forward, go ahead and be bolder in your use of the pomegranate molasses and sumac. If using this with Lentil, Corn & Cauliflower Salad, keep in mind that the corn is already flavoured with sumac. And if you prefer a basic dressing, see the Note below.
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp ground sumac
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
Put all the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk up with a fork.
If you prefer your salad dressing to be as basic as possible, here’s what I suggest:
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 to 1-1/2 tbsp lemon juice (freshly squeezed if possible)
- salt and pepper to taste
Just put these ingredients into a small bowl and whisk up with a fork. If you don’t have lemon juice, you could use apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar.
Looking for Other Lentil Salad Ideas?
It’s clear that I’m a fan of lentil salads when you see how many recipes I have for them here. It was hard to narrow down the field, but I offer: Lentil & Broccoli Salad, Middle Eastern-Inspired Lentil Salad, and Brown Lentil, Quinoa & Parsley Salad.
First Published 2015 08 26
Republished 2020 09 09