Lentils are a year round thing for me. So easy to prepare, filling, packed with protein...but my favorite thing about them is their versatility. Most people think of heartier, cold weather dishes when it comes to lentils but I truly enjoy them in salads and cold preparations just as well. They really take on any flavor that's given to them with a background taste of earthiness & nuttiness.
In an effort to use up some of the dried legumes and produce that was around the house (so one of us doesn't die under an avalanche erupting from the cabinets), I put together this summery lentil salad. Roughly chopped heirloom tomatoes, the remainder of a red onion, the last hearts of palm in the jar - it all mixed wonderfully with the tangy lentils. To make it a more substantial meal, I topped the salad with a thin slice of pan fried Kasseri cheese. Just a few minutes in a hot pan will slightly melt this cheese and give it a nice char on the outside. You could do this with Halloumi or even a thick slice of Feta, as well.
Pan Fried Kasseri Cheese & Summer Lentil Salad - serves 2 as a main course
- 4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 2 2 ounce-ish slices of Kasseri cheese (the packages I've seen are 6 oz. so make a third or have leftover cheese!)
- 1 cup dried brown lentils
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
- 1 large heirloom tomato (any variety) - de-seeded and roughly chopped
- 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
- 20 Kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
- 4 hearts of palm, chopped
- 3 large radishes, thinly sliced
- 1 handful fresh herbs (think basil, marjoram, oregano, even mint) and edible flowers, for garnish
- salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
- In a medium pot, heat the lentils and vegetable stock until they come to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until tender - between 15 and 25 minutes depending on the age of your lentils. Drain, rinse and allow to cool.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 tbsp. of the olive oil, red wine vinegar, chopped tomato, sliced red onion, chopped olives, chopped hearts of palm, and radishes. Mix thoroughly & salt and pepper to taste - remember that you are topping this salad with a slightly salty cheese so err on the side of under-salted. You can always add more at the very end. When the lentils have cooled, stir them in along with the herbs and flowers. Cover and allow the flavors to mingle for at least 30 minutes. Taste one last time and re-salt & pepper if you need to.
- To complete the dish, portion out the lentil salad on two plates. Heat the remaining olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. When the oil is shimmering, quickly pan fry the Kasseri cheese slices - 1 to 2 minutes on each side should do it. You're looking for a slightly loose, gooey texture but with a nice griddled char on the sides. Place a slice of the fried cheese on each plate of lentil salad. Serve immediately.