Settling into summer this year has been really easy. The best part about it is that cooking is no longer an equation but simple addition. With fresh vegetables popping out of the garden and the farmer’s markets, putting dinner on the table becomes a breeze. When we have meat, it’s usually on the grill. Hearty salads are a way of life. I like to make a bunch and keep quarts of them on hand for a quick meal.
The other day while roasting potatoes, I threw in a bunch of beets to roast. They sat, unpeeled, in the fridge until I needed them. Once peeled and sliced, I tossed them with feta, scallions and fresh mint and dressed them with olive oil, vinegar and salt. It’s a gorgeous salad that can be eaten on it’s own, or a small spoonful can be tossed with some greens and toasted nuts. It stays in the fridge much longer than you’d think.
Another salad that came together quickly and reaped dividends throughout the week was this lentil and kale salad. It’s good both hot and cold, as a side dish or a main, served with some crusty bread. It keeps in the fridge very well. I used curly kale and French de Puy lentils, but of course you can switch things up. I keep a gallon jar filled with these lentils because they cook so quickly, are so versatile and delicious! Kale and lentils go so well together, and they are good all year round.
Kale and French Lentil Salad
1 or 2 large bunch of kale, any kind. Remove the stems, and wilt the leaves in boiling water for about three minutes. After draining, chop them finely, or pulse them in the food processor for a bit.
Meanwhile, cook off your lentils. About 1 cup dried lentils to two cups water, and bring to a boil. Cook them at a low rolling boil for about 15-20 minutes. Taste one to see if they are done. (Tip: I usually cook off more, maybe 2 cups, and freeze the extra for another no-cook, easy meal.)
In a cast iron skillet, pour a good amount of olive oil. Sauté a couple of crushed garlic cloves. Once they become fragrant, add the drained and chopped kale. Cook for about five minutes. Then add the lentils. Keep in mind this recipe is just a guideline–use your eye for the amounts. Kale bunches are different sizes and cook down differently depending on the type. I like equal amounts of kale and lentils.
Then add seasonings. I added chopped preserved lemon, salt and pepper, and after a stroll in the garden, some chopped parsley, basil and lovage. The herbs are not necessary but I think the preserved lemon plays a key role. A squeeze of fresh lemon should work if you don’t have any preserved lemon on hand. This salad keeps well in the fridge, and seems to get better after a day or two.