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Mediterranean Monday: Cold Lentil Salad

For the last few weeks I have been craving lentils. A real deep lusty craving. And they say that when your body craves something, it is trying to tell you that you are lacking a particular nutrient, mineral or vitamin. So, since my craving didn’t involve something illegal or unhealthy… I thought I should listen.

Lentils are high high high in protein and also contain a pile of dietary fiber, folate, vitamin B1, and minerals. Health magazine has selected lentils as one of the five healthiest foods. They are a super food. Super good for you and super delicious.

In Italy, you have to look no further than Umbria for what many consider to be the best lentils in the world – Lenticchie di Castelluccio. These petite pale lentils retain their shape well and have a wonderful nutty flavour. Lentils play a key role in the Mediterranean diet and also within the Italian culture. An Italian can’t ring in the New Year without this pulse, as it is believed to bring luck and good fortune in the coming year.

But lentils in the summer? I mean, it is 35ºC today so the idea of a steamy bowl of soup is not what I am looking for. The answer: Cold Lentil Salad. Easy breezy and so good. This salad is a great side dish for summer lunches and barbeques.

About 4 Servings

Sort and rinse lentils. Lentils di Castelluccio do not need pre-soaking as they have a very tender skin. In a pot, cover with water by a few cm and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to a simmer and cook until lentils are tender all the way through but not too soft, there should still be a bit of a bite – about 30 minutes. Keep water level up throughout cooking time, adding more water if needed. Drain well.

In a wide shallow bowl, toss the lentils with a good shot of EVOO, vinegar (about a tablespoon, more or less to taste), salt, fresh ground black pepper, and let sit 5 minutes. Taste and add more salt, pepper or vinegar if needed. These lentils absorb flavours fantastically while still warm. Add shallots, parsley and grapes (or any other herb or diced vegetable combo you like), and stir. If mixture seems too dry add more EVOO. Add crumbled fresh cheese and set in the refrigerator to cool.

Keeping in the Umbrian theme, a wonderful oil to use in the dish is Ranchino’s Canale 53. Medium intensity with a hint of black pepper, it pairs beautifully with the lentils.


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