Unintentionally Vegan: Creamy Lentil Salad

veganlentilsSince it’s January, I, like everybody else, am trying to eat a little bit healthier. Since I already do almost all my cooking from scratch and generally feel pretty good, it’s more about using nutritious ingredients that I’m not overly familiar with, and expanding my repertoire.

So, lentils. We’ve got a ton of them in our pantry, and they’re still not my number one choice, simply because I don’t entirely know what to do with them. I’ve come to love the brown variety; they are extremely easy to cook. There are just a couple tips about lentils that I’ve come across, including that you should always rinse them off beforehand, and that you should wait to salt them until after they are cooked (or they might get mushy). Other than that, lentils seem pretty easy-going. I haven’t overcooked them yet, or burned them to the bottom of the pot.

This recipe was very much an odds and ends creation, but came together better than I ever expected. And it’s perfect for Meatless Monday. I call this dish: creamy lentil salad with avocado-lemon dressing, and cashews. It is filling, rich and flavourful… oh, and unintentionally vegan. Here is the recipe, for one person, as it was a work-day lunch for me:

Creamy lentil salad with avocado-lemon dressing, and cashews. For one. 

  • 1/2 cup brown lentils, cooked and cooled to room temp. or warm
  • 1 avocado, ripe
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • EVOO
  • 1/4 cup white onion, very finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup red pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 radish, chopped
  • 1 button mushroom, chopped
  • 1 sun-dried tomato, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • Handful of crushed cashews (preferably unsalted)
  • Greens for on top, optional

As a note, the ratio for lentils to water is 1:2. They only take about 20-30 minutes to cook. Bring them to a boil then simmer, uncovered, for the rest of the cooking time.

Method: This is pretty easy. Mix up the avocado, lemon juice and EVOO until you get a creamy dressing that isn’t too thick. Add some salt and pepper to taste. Mix the dressing with the lentils until they are covered. Mix in all your chopped up veggies until covered. Add salt and pepper if you need to. Spoon into a bowl and sprinkle the cashews on top. Finish with a handful of greens. (If you are a lover of heat, cut the richness of this dish with your favourite hot sauce!)

Look for my next post, which will be the complete opposite of vegan. It will feature making ravioli from scratch and other indulgences from my recent birthday weekend…

Odds and ends: gluten-free lunches

Working from home has allowed me the convenience of making fresh lunches every day in my own kitchen. If you read the blog regularly you might know that I love both cooking and eating out. So, while I definitely find excuses to swing by Indochine for fusion tacos after meetings downtown (at least once a week, it’s an addiction — I’m dealing with it), or easily agree to that Friday sushi “business” lunch, most days I am challenging myself to whip something up, at home, that’s somewhat healthy.

I’m definitely not gluten-free and personally don’t have any health reasons to be, but for the past week or so have felt compelled to make gluten-free lunches that I still really enjoy. A midday challenge, I guess. Using whatever I have in the house, here are a couple recipe ideas I considered gluten-free successes.

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The first is a baby kale, sautéed leek and garlic pesto frittata I coincidentally made on National Kale Day last week. I wasn’t aware of this super important holiday (who makes these up?) but was happy to find out I inadvertently participated, after the fact. We have a perfectly-sized cast iron skillet for making personal size frittatas. This one was sprinkled with chives, and lots of goat cheese after I took the photo.

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Second, some gluten-free fusion. Here we have a spicy quinoa stir-fry. The sauce is made from coconut milk, Sriracha, garlic, ginger and fresh lime juice. I had bok choy in the fridge along with peppers, carrots, corn and green onion. Then, because I felt like it, I put a fried egg on top. The creamy yolk toned down the heat and added some protein.

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Third is an odds-and-ends frittata. Whatever vegetables you have will work. Throw in some fresh herbs, your favourite cheese, and you’re good to go.

I must mention something else I experimented with this week. Putting quinoa in the frittata, with roasted garlic and corn, and also a touch of cornstarch as a binding agent. I finished this in the oven on broil; it puffed up and turned into somewhat of a savoury quinoa pancake. I topped it with freshly-made salsa, hot sauce, and some greek yogurt. It had a real Mexican feel… I’d make that again.