A few weeks ago, the rhododendrons started blooming. This is my own personal notification of spring's arrival (kind of like I know it's summer when I have to start keeping my toenails painted so that I can change into flip-flops at a moment's notice). I shamelessly plucked a flower from a rhododendron bush owned by the State of Washington, stuck it behind my ear, and went along my merry way, with just the slightest of springs in my step.
Spring is rhododendrons blooming all over campus, but it's also opening your bedroom window for the first time in six months. It's walking in the rain with your mom and sister when they come up for a surprise visit. It's Imogen Heap's "Hide and Seek" played on repeat, as loud as you can stand it. It's sitting in the Quad on a cloudy day, trying to read Leaves of Grass and giving up, because you're in the middle of a poem already.
This spring, I am also very interested in fruits and veggies. Orangette's chickpea-carrot salad is a new favorite. Arugula is popping up in every other meal. Last week we ate a plate of strawberries surrounded by Stilton with lemon zest. And then there's my new food du jour, Aunt Meg's lentil-couscous salad, which I've made three times in as many weeks.
There are many advantages to this salad. It's versatile, travels well, and if you manage your time well, you can throw it together in little more than half an hour. You can adjust the ingredients to suit your taste. Don't care for arugula? Erin, take note: spinach or basil would work just as well. Not an olive girl? Leave them out (I do). You could probably even substitute chickpeas for the lentils.
I suggest making this on a full stomach, which might dissuade you from eating half of the salad as soon as it's done. Then again, it might not.
Aunt Meg's Lentil-Couscous Salad
adapted from Aunt Meg
For the salad:
1 cup lentils
1 cup couscous
3 or 4 handfuls cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered depending on size
1 small or medium cucumber
1 large handful arugula, torn
Feta cheese, crumbled (I use about half a 6-oz tub, but feel free to use more)
Kalamata olives, chopped
For the vinaigrette:
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced
As much freshly ground black pepper as you want
Rinse and pick rocks out of lentils; cover with water, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until done (I can never get this just right, but about 20-25 minutes seems to do it). Bring one cup water and two tablespoons butter to a boil; stir in couscous, remove from heat, and cover.
While the lentils are cooking, make the vinaigrette. Whisk vinaigrette ingredients together, adding more Dijon, garlic, or pepper if you like. Next, chop up your vegetables. (I use the above-listed ones, with the exception of the olives, but you could certainly experiment. I'm guessing red or yellow peppers or some chopped red onion would be good additions.)
When your lentils and couscous are done, mix them together in a large bowl; add vinaigrette and mix well. Add vegetables and crumbled feta and stir until well mixed.
I don't know how many normal people this serves, but I get four or five lunches out of it. Enjoy! Spring has sprung, my friends, and this is the salad for the season.
posted by shan at 9:06 PM;