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…

Brown Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

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Today is apparently Pi Day, which the foodies have turned into a day to post photos of pie-related dishes. Most memorable (so far) is this awesome creation by Ratinaud.

Lucky for me, I was already planning on blogging about my most recent dish, brown lentil shepherd’s pie. So what better day to post?

I love making a dish that’s a meatless concept where you’re replacing the meat with something else, but the look of the dish is virtually the same, and the way you incorporate this other ingredient works so well that it’s a whole new thing entirely on its own. Know what I mean? Probably not, unless you’re a mostly-vegetarian eater like me.

Brown lentil shepherd’s pie is DELICIOUS. I’m not going to say “it tastes just like regular shepherd’s pie,” because that would be a lie. It tastes like lentil shepherd’s pie. And when you use the right vegetables, herbs and seasoning, you can get a fantastic texture and flavour. So much that you would look forward to eating lentil shepherd’s pie, and wouldn’t even think about the “regular” version, or to compare the two.

IMG_7937Part of the deliciousness of my recipe was the mash. I oven roasted local fingerling potatoes and parsnips, kept the skins on, and added a splash of milk, along with Ran-Cher Acres chives goat cheese, and a bit of homemade roasted garlic oil.

For the lentil layer, I started with dried brown lentils, and cooked them like the package directions told me to. I haven’t cooked with lentils much. This worked.

Then I sautéed garlic, onions, and Brussels’ sprouts. When those are looking good, you add some tomato (canned works), corn, peas, veggie stock, and throw the lentils back in to simmer.

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You could use different herbs here (rosemary would be nice), but I only had some basil, so that’s what went in. I also squeezed in a generous portion of Sriracha, because I knew we’d love a little zing to our lentil shepherd’s pie. I was right.

Once this is reduced and thickened, seasoned to your taste, and the flavours have melded, you just spoon it into a baking dish, top with the mash, drizzle a little olive oil and bake it for 20-30 minutes, around 375, until the top is starting to turn golden brown.

IMG_7972Yum. The the best decision I made with this dish was to use the Brussels’ sprouts, as they added a needed crunchy-firm aspect. The dish had a little heat, too, just the right amount. We both had seconds.

One cool thing… if I hadn’t added the goat cheese and milk into the mash (you could sub out for almond or rice milk), this dish would have been vegan. And still hearty.