I recently had the pleasure of cooking dinner, at a lovely home in Santa Cruz overlooking the ocean, with a friend whose husband and young son are primarily vegetarian. It reminded me that I tend to cook in a distinct pattern. That is, I usually prepare a meat-based entree served with a cooked vegetable side and a green salad. Healthy, yes, but a little boring in its repetition. The evening I cooked with the above mentioned friend, we served steak (the meat entree), along with four or five vegetable dishes, which combined for a great meal. Not that any of us have time to whip up six dishes for every dinner, but it got me thinking… I want to cook more vegetarian dishes not just cook more vegetables.
One of the dishes my friend made that evening is this lentil salad. She said the recipe comes from the genius Ottolenghi team, but I couldn’t find it in any of their books. My friend didn’t use precise measurements, but I’ve tried to capture fairly precise measurements based on my own taste. It’s definitely one of those dishes you can make, then taste, adjust, taste again, etc. However, I have included the measurements for the dish as I like it (since I’ve already made it three times in the past two weeks).
The combination of flavors and textures surprises and delights. I also love the different colors even though the main ingredient–French lentils, is an uninteresting greenish-brown. And while sun-dried tomatoes seem strong-flavored on their own, as does gorgonzola cheese, they blend perfectly together in a surprisingly mild, yet still very flavorful way.
I also think this dish works with just about anything. We served it with steak, but it would have been a great accompaniment to roasted chicken or grilled halibut or any vegetarian dish.
3 cups cooked French lentils*
1 cup fresh pomegranate seeds
3/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped, plus a little oil from the jar
1/2 cup gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
2 tbsp fresh dill, thick stems removed and leaves chopped
2 tbsp fresh chives, snipped or cut in small lengths
2 tbsp fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Coarse-ground sea salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
*If you happen to live near a Trader Joe’s store, they sell steamed lentils in the produce section. Cooking your own is always better, but in a hurry, the pre-cooked lentils make this dish a cinch to prepare!
Mix everything together in a large bowl. Drizzle a little olive oil, season to taste and stir to incorporate. Serve at room temperature.