Let's talk about lentils!
Lentils might not be under the spotlight of the all favorite foods ever but I personally like to cook and eat them. If you are not already a lentil's lover, I will show you through this recipe that working with lentils is easy and that they are delicious.
Lentils are easy and quick to prepare, unlike other dried beans. They have a high nutritional value and are one of the best protein sources from plants, with one third of their calories coming from protein. Lentils are high in fiber and rich in vitamins and minerals like iron, folate or phosphorus. One cup of lentils contains over half the recommended daily dose of iron, for example.
Lentils do not require any soaking time. Just rinse them in a sieve under running water, checking for small stones or debris. Place them in a pan with enough water to cover about half an inch over the lentils. Add a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Simmer uncovered until done. Different types of lentils require different cooking times. Red lentils need just about 10 minutes, while brown or black need longer.
Lentils are very versatile; they go well with many spices, and are great year round in warm or cold dishes. Here I present a delicious and nutritious lentils and couscous salad. I like to make rich salads like this one since you can prepare them in advance; they keep well for the next day and they work well for taking them to lunch at work or a picnic in the park.
Couscous and Lentils Salad with Cranberries and Mint
- 1½ cups dry black lentils, cooked
- 1½ cups dry Israeli or pearl couscous, cooked
- 2 medium zucchinis (approx. 340g), small dice
- drizzle extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cucumber (350g), small dice
- 2 medium tomatos (200g), small dice
- ⅓ cup (50g) dried cranberries, finely chopped
For the vinaigrette
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ heaping teaspoon berbere seasoning (see note)
- ½ tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoon white or golden balsamic vinegar
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 6 small fresh mint leaves, finely minced (optional)
- Cook the lentils until done but still firm. Let cool and set aside. Cooking the lentils can be done in advance.
- Cook the couscous following the cooking instructions on the package. Cooking the couscous can be done in advance.
- In a pan, heat up a generous drizzle of olive oil and sauté the diced zucchinis with a pinch of salt until soft but still firm. Let cool and set aside.
- Prepare the vinaigrette by mixing all the ingredients in a bowl except for the oil and the mint. Once mixed slowly whisk in the olive oil. Add in the mint.
- In a large bowl mix the lentils, the couscous, zucchinis, cucumber, tomatos and cranberries and toss with the vinaigrette until well mixed. Adjust the seasoning with salt if necessary. Serve cold or at room temperature.
This salad tastes even better if you make it a few hours in advance to allow the vinaigrette to infuse the rest of the ingredients.
The Israeli or pearl couscous is the size of a peppercorn and larger than the Moroccan couscous (tiny grains of semolina). They are both made of semolina flour.
Berbere seasoning is a north african spice mix that you can get at a large number of grocery stores or online. I use the one from Frontier.