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 or so minutes 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.
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.
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 the vinaigrette.
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.
Lentil, Corn & Cauliflower Salad
Preheat barbecue or 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. I haven’t done this yet; if you do, please let me know how it works.
- 1 ear sweet corn
- 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 you could just chop it if separating the florets seems like too darned much work)
- 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 the red split lentils, which become mushy when cooked)
- freshly ground pepper, to taste
- kosher or fine sea salt, to taste
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 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.
Middle-Eastern Inspired Vinaigrette
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.
- 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.