Join Date: Nov 2018
Location: Woodbury, NJ
My favorite bean salad is actually a lentil salad, that I make countless times every summer, once the cherry tomatoes start ripening. One time recently I was having withdrawal, brought on by counting all those tomato seeds, and drawing up plans for the garden! It wasn't the same with frozen cherry tomatoes, as it got a little watery, but it was still good!
The original recipe called for regular brown/green lentils, but I found out early on that it was hard to get the texture just right, and it was easy for them to get mushy, even if it seemed they were al dente when drained. Later I discovered channa dal, which, even when what seems like they are overcooked, got firm when chilled, so I use those in the salad. The original recipe had a half cup of cooked wild rice, which is good in it, but I usually use freekeh - a cracked wheat, with a roasted flavor, which is delicious in this. It also called for pine nuts, but given the price, I use toasted, slivered almonds, which are crunchier, with a better flavor. The habanero is a unique and distinguishing flavor - it wouldn't be the same without it, but sometimes I use aji dulce - a habanero type pepper with almost no heat, for someone who can't take the heat. The feta is also a delicious flavor here - one time, I was out of it, and diced up some extra sharp cheddar instead, but even that was lacking in flavor. Finally, the original recipe had a half cup of chopped scallions - good, but the leftovers got that bad raw onion taste. So I use chives, or even better, garlic chives - these were popping up outside when I made that last batch!
It's actually faster than it looks, especially if I have someone to put to work halving all the tomatoes, while I'm prepping the rest! The original recipe calls for a pint, I guess because that's how they are sold, but I usually use 3-4 cups - hard to have to many fresh tomatoes in the summer! This is why I have 12 varieties of cherry/grape tomatoes, in 4 different colors this year.
For cooking the lentils:
1 lb channa dal
1/3 c dry freekeh, or use wild rice, spelt, kamut, or similar grain
1 medium onion, stuck with 6 cloves (or use 1/2 tsp asafoetida, and put cloves in tea ball, with other spices)
Option: 1 large or 2 small black cardamom pods
1 tsp Mexican oregano
8 cups water
2 tsp salt
Rinse the dal several times, until not very cloudy, and place in 4 qt saucepan, or the instant pot (the way I always do it now), with the water, bring it to a simmer, and skim the foam for a few minutes, then add the onion (or asafoetida - the cheap and easy way I give onion flavor to these types of foods), the tea ball with the spices, and the salt. On the stove, simmer for about 35 minutes, adding the freekeh after 10 minutes (same for wild rice; spelt and kamut can be added in the beginning).
In the IP bring to a simmer on sauté/high, then switch to the slow cook regular mode - best way to cook these without overcooking. After 40 minutes, add the freekeh, and after about 1:50 start checking for doneness. I usually get it at around 2 or 2:10.
When the dal are cooked, but not mushy, drain in a colander with small holes. When well drained, toss in a 4 qt bowl with:
1/2 c extra virgin olive oil
1/3 c red wine or balsamic vinegar
While cooking, prepare the following, to toss with the lentils, when cooled:
3 c (or more!) cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
3/4 c chopped garlic or regular chives
1/2 c chopped cilantro
1/3 c toasted slivered almonds
4 oz brined feta cheese, diced about 3/8" (better than the "crumbled", and it crumbles up some after dicing)
1 large, or 2 small ripe habaneros, minced (can be seeded, to reduce heat some, but it doesn't help much)
I always mix the habanero in first, to thoroughly distribute it, then the nuts and herbs, and the tomatoes and cheese last, to crush them up the least.
When eating this cold from the fridge, I put a bowl in the MW for 10 sec, just to take the chill off. Sometimes, some vinegar has to added, as it seems to loose strength when refrigerated.