Sunday, May 26, 2013

Warm Lentil Walnut & Apple Salad

warm lentil walnut & apple salad

Since I've become a vegetarian, there haven't been many moments that I've missed eating meat. I ate it rarely for years before I decided to stop eating it entirely, so it was hardly a drastic change to my eating habits that sent me into a state of shock and meat cravings that I know some people have experienced.

That being said, there are some things I do miss, more specifically, one dish, and that's my dad's stuffing.

I realize that the end of May is not really the time of year to feel nostalgic about the Christmas turkey stuffing of your childhood, but I'll get there. This recipe had absolutely nothing to do with stuffing or nostalgia in the beginning. In the beginning, this recipe was a loaf that came about only because I had an excess of cooked lentils in the fridge I didn't know what to do with. And so I googled, and then I made a loaf.

It was fine - good, even, but during the cooking process, as I was frying up the celery, carrot, apple, onion, garlic, and thyme, I took a taste and was transported back to the Christmas dinners of yore, when I still ate meat and my brother had yet to start thinking of me as a person with a "condition". It tasted like stuffing - very much like my dad's stuffing, which was always, at least for me, the highlight of Christmas dinner. It was rich, hearty, flavourful, and at least seventy-five percent sausage. God, it was amazing.

Somehow, however, this humble mixture of vegetables, apple, and a bit of thyme with salt and pepper tasted shockingly similar to my dad's stuffing. I made the loaf thinking, "Yeah - vegetarian stuffing in cube form!" and was mildly disappointed. It tasted good, but somehow the flavours just didn't seem as vibrant. And that's when I realized I had to deconstruct it (which is just a fancy way of saying "not mash it up and bake it").

It was a true success. The satisfying crunch of the vegetables is still there, the apple lends just the right bit of sweetness, the walnuts adds a bit of earthiness and texture, and the thyme is the perfect flavour to bring it all together.

brain food lentil walnut salad

Warm Lentil Walnut & Apple Salad
Adapted from Oh She Glows
This dish is hearty and filling without being heavy, and makes a great vegetarian main dish. It doesn't require any fuss, and despite being made from simple ingredients, it's packed with flavour.

1 cup walnuts
1/2 cup uncooked green or brown lentils
1/2 cup uncooked millet or quinoa
1 tbsp oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped carrot (about 2 large carrots)
2 cups chopped celery
1 granny smith apple (or other tart variety), chopped
1/2 tsp dried thyme
salt & pepper to taste

Makes 4 - 6 servings.

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Toast walnuts until slightly darker in colour and fragrant, 5 - 8 minutes. Let cool, then break into small pieces. Set aside.

2. Combine lentils with 1 1/2 scant cups water in a medium pot, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, until all the water has been absorbed, 20 - 25 minutes. Set aside.

3. Combine millet or quinoa with 1 cup water in a medium pot, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook until all the water has been absorbed, about 20 minutes (quinoa will cook faster, about 15 minutes).

4. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, add onion and garlic, and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

5. Add chopped carrots, celery, apple and thyme to the garlic and onions. Continue to cook until the vegetables are slightly softened but still crunchy, about 5 - 10 minutes. Add the lentils and millet and cook for another minute. Season with salt and pepper.

6. Serve immediately and sprinkle with toasted walnuts. Store any leftovers in the fridge for up to three or four days.

lentil walnut & apple salad

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