I’ve been trying to make an effort to cook at home and bring lunch to work more often, and as a result I’ve been spending my Sundays preparing giant bowls of salads that I can grab and go in the mornings. This lentil salad is one of my favourites — it’s spicy, sweet, refreshing, filling, and ridiculously easy to make (well, if you like chopping, which I totally do, OH GOD YOU GUYS I COULD JULIENNE PEPPERS ALL DAY THE BEST STRESS RELIEF EVER IS DICING CELERY I LOVE KNIVES.) We also already know about my near-obsessive ongoing love affair with fresh mint — and this is just another option for it before summer’s over.
1 cup whole grain couscous
2 cups steamed lentils (make ‘em yourself if you have the patience; I tend to get the refrigerated pack from Trader Joes)
5 cloves garlic, minced (yes. make it super garlicky. It’s delicious. you may want to cut this in half if you don’t bring a toothbrush to work though.)
4-6 stalks celery (seems like a lot, but makes it so great and crunchy)
1/2 a big red onion, or 1 small one
1 big cucumber or 2 little ones, peeled and seeded
2 tomatoes, seeded
2 lemons, or an orange if you like orange instead
10-20 leaves mint, depending how minty you like things, I like a lot
cumin, red pepper flakes, black pepper, salt, a lil’ bit of cinnamon
Pour a few tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan, toss in the garlic. I add plenty of red pepper flakes, cumin, and black pepper here, as well as a lil’ bit of salt and a tiny shake of cinnamon. If you have frozen chopped cilantro (or dried coriander, same deal) you could toss that in there too, or a shake of paprika, or even some tarragon or turmeric or just forget all that complication and go all-out with a lil’ bit of something like garam masala or ras el hanout if you’re kind of a weird spice nerd/hoarder like me and are into that. (Remember that you’ll be adding a lot of mint later too though.) Cook for a lil’ while so the garlic softens up a bit and the spices flavor the oil real well.
Add 1 1/4 c water to the pan, bring to a boil. Dump in couscous, turn off heat, cover for 5 minutes. Rinse off prepared lentils or just get them ready nearby. Open lid of pan fast, throw in lentils, stir, cover again.
Chop everything up real fine - the veggies should be diced very tiny and the mint very fine as well. Do you really like bell peppers or carrots or radishes or green onions or broccoli? Okay fine, chop some of them and throw them in there too, though I think it’s fine without. Open lid of pan, let cool a little. Toss in veggies and mint; squeeze in citrus (2 lemons or 1 orange, I’m a fan of the orange) and add more olive oil and salt to taste if need be.
Stick in the fridge, it will get better overnight and be extra tasty in the morning! Toss over some spinach or arugala for lunch! Throw some grilled chicken on top of that if you eat meat, or use as a base for some citrusy baked salmon for dinner! Roast some carrots with cinnamon, raisins, and paprika or a Morrocan-style veggie tagine for a Mediterranean-ish feats! Add some goat cheese or feta and eat with a cup of tomato soup! Stick in a pita with sliced cucumbers, sprouts, and hummus! Eat out of the bowl in the fridge with a spoon as a midnight snack! Bring a bigass bowl of it to a late summer picnic! I told you! It’s wonderful!