Mediterranean Lentil and Couscous Salad

26 April 2011 § 4 Comments

It is nearly May and I realize I have a magic, never diminishing bag of lentils. I bought a 10lb bag of lentils for Halloween the year before last. It was a misguided attempt to create a spooky lucky dip for a group of toddlers. The idea was simple – take a big box and fill with lentils, add plastic spiders, eyeballs and skeletons. Hardly surprising that most of the lentils ended up on the floor. Fortunately I only used half the bag otherwise I’m sure we would still be finding them now stuck in air vents and floorboards. In a mission to spring clean some cupboards I decided to put some of the lentils them to use in this salad from an old Gourmet magazine – how I miss that magazine – go on blame the internet!

This salad was not a big hit with one of The Ladies™ who picked out all the tomatoes and only ate them. However a friend’s two-year old LOVED it. I served it with grilled chicken breasts for an easy supper. Don’t be put off as it sounds like an earthy 1970s vegetarian recipe, you know the one from a beige book with poor illustrations, but it really is fresh tasting, almost a promise of spring.

What ingredients do you have in your food cupboard that you just can’t get rid of?

Mediterranean Lentil and Couscous Salad – serves 6

  • 1 cup Puy lentils or brown lentils  (do NOT use red or yellow – they will go mushy)
  • 3 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (preferably extra-virgin)
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced and mashed to a paste with 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro (or mint would work well too)
  • 1 bunch arugula (that’s rocket for the Brits), stems discarded and leaves washed well, spun dry, and chopped
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 pound feta, crumbled (about 1 cup)
In a small saucepan simmer lentils in water to cover by 2 inches until tender but not falling apart, 15 to 20 minutes, and drain well. Transfer hot lentils to a bowl and stir in 1 tablespoon vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Cool lentils completely, stirring occasionally.

In a saucepan bring water to a boil and add couscous and salt. Remove pan from heat and let couscous stand, covered, 5 minutes. Fluff couscous with a fork and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in 1 tablespoon oil and cool completely, stirring occasionally.

In a small bowl whisk together garlic paste, remaining 2 tablespoons vinegar, remaining 3 tablespoons oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir lentils and dressing into couscous. Chill salad, covered, at least 3 hours and up to 24.

Just before serving, stir in remaining ingredients and season with salt and pepper.

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