Just home from emceeing the Food: Today, Tomorrow, Together conference, where I ate many things – perhaps most notably absolute perfection in the form of a salted caramel macaron (from the new M at the Calgary Farmers’ Market), meaning I didn’t make dinner, left M and W to their own devices and thus have nothing to offer, recipe-wise. But last weekend Sue fed me a suitably grainy-yet-delicious salad of the sort that makes one feel virtuous, well balanced and light on their feet. I even took photos, and totally meant to tell you about it. But then I thought rather than ask her for the recipe I’d ask her to do a guest post, since that seems to be a thing other bloggers do. And it sounds fun.
Figures she’d have to throw in a preface being all complementary of me. As if I wasn’t wearing rugby shirts (and crushed pink shimmery synthetic shirts with tails from Le Château, with my painstakingly crimped hair – I bet I have a photo somewhere in the basement) right alongside her.
So without any further ado, I give you Sue (hey, that rhymes!):
Hi everyone! My name is Sue, and like many of you I’ve been riveted to the computer for the last couple years, reading every Dinner with Julie post I could get my eyes on.
Julie got me hooked on food and cooking right from the start of our friendship, and I’ve known her for a few decades now. I still find myself amazed when I look at one of her new recipes (SO simple! SO PERFECT!), floored by her work ethic, and more often than not absolutely slayed by her humour. The thing about Julie I know best though, is her capacity for friendship. Julie has been an amazing friend to me since we met in Junior High. She never laughed at my appalling Grade 8 fashion sense (rugby shirts and brown-tinted glasses), or at my horrific first boyfriends when they finally appeared a few years later. We’ve both grown up a bunch, or at the very least we’ve quit drinking Southern Comfort and switched to wine.
It’s because Julie is an amazing and generous friend that she invited me to do this guest-post, and I’ll try really hard not to screw it up. I’m hoping that if you can bear having a sub from time to time, it might mean that Julie can take a night off work and just hang with Mike and W, and isn’t that something we’ve all been asking her to do? But not too often, I promise.
Introduction now aside, I’d love to tell you about this salad I make. This is a salad that’s really great to have on the table when you have things like ribs or burgers or smokies there too. Rich meat dishes, especially the all-indulgent ribs are one of life’s great pleasures after all, and I prefer my eating pleasures to be unsullied by guilt. This is a magical, guilt-erasing elixir of lentils, whole grains and raw vegetables and it’s full of lemony flavour (definitely use fresh lemons if possible!), and there’s feta too. Whenever I’ve ever served this salad to people outside my immediate family, they always take the recipe home.
And it’s one of those salads that keeps well for a few days in the fridge, so you can dip into it for lunch the next day, have a couple spoonfuls when you get home from the gym and put it back on the supper table the night after that.
Like most things of this nature, the proportions and ingredients are extremely fluid. I love the wild rice in it because the texture stays that little bit crunchy, and really, it only needs about 1/2 cup uncooked, but wild rice is stupidly expensive. Feel free to substitute brown rice or omit it altogether. Other times if I need to feed a crowd, I’ll keep the wild rice but bolster the salad with some whole wheat couscous. Some of the vegetables should be crunchy, and if you’re planning on leftovers it’s best to cut the core (ie the watery bits) out of things like tomato and cucumber so as not to have an unappetizing soggy mess the day after tomorrow. Other than that, use what you already have in the fridge, or whatever looks good at the store.
You may notice in the photo a total absence of tomato and fresh herbs. That’s because I live a half hour’s drive to the grocery store, and I was already a glass of wine to the good when I started making this. The salad was fine without, and don’t you think it’s good to be happy when things turn out differently every time you make them? One last thing: you may want to keep an additional lemon on standby, or I suppose a couple tablespoons of red or white wine vinegar would work fine too. I’m always wanting to add that little bit more, but then I’m a bit obsessive with all things lemony.
Lentil & Wild Rice Salad
1/2 cup French blue lentils (green/brown lentils have worked fine in the past – they’ll likely need a little extra cooking time)
1/2 cup wild rice
2 med carrots (grated, but I suggest you grate the carrots when most of the salad is assembled so as to prevent that slight greyish brown colour they’ll otherwise acquire)
2 sticks celery
1/2-1 red, yellow or orange bell pepper
2-3 roma tomatoes
1/2 english cucumber
4-5 green onions, sliced thinly
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped or 1 tablespoon dried
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
150 grams (about 5 oz) feta, crumbled
juice of 1 lemon, seeds removed
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and black pepper to taste
In a small saucepan add the lentils to about 1 1/2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to med-low and cover. Cook for about 15 minutes or to taste, but don’t cook so long they lose their shape. Drain and cool.
In the same pan (no need to wash it), add the rice to about 2 cups of water. Add a good pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to med-low and cover. Cook for about 35 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the rice rest in the pot, on the stove for about another 5 minutes. At this stage I usually find that some, but not all the grains have split open. I like the soft crunch at this stage, but if you prefer all the grains open, by all means let it rest for an additional 5-15 minutes. Drain and cool. (I suggest cooking the rice and lentils in the morning, or even the day before if you like, and keep them in the fridge until you’re ready to proceed).
Put the rice and lentils into a large bowl. Chop the celery, pepper, tomatoes, and cucumbers into smallish chunks (bigger than 1/4″ but less 1/2″ works for me), add to the cooled rice and lentils. Add the green onions, herbs, feta, and lemon juice and give the salad a good toss. Add the freshly grated carrots, the olive oil, sugar and a good grinding of black pepper. Taste before you add salt as the feta often does the job! Chill for however long you have, or up to a few days. Makes about 8-10 cups.