Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fennel, Asparagus, Spicy-Lentil and Mixed Greens "Salad" {Gluten Free + Vegetarian}

Fennel, Asparagus, Spicy-Lentil & Mixed Greens "Salad" {Gluten Free + Vegetarian}

For what I think was our second official date, I made my boyfriend this great "salad" which incorporates the fresh, crisp flavors of fennel, asparagus, celery, leeks and fresh herbs (including parsley and cilantro) combined with mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, and ricotta salata (omit the ricotta salata for a vegan variation!).  

These ingredients were served on top of slightly-spicy green lentils that, as we ate, we incorporated directly into the salad.


I dressed the "salad" with some lite Italian Dressing.  You can use your salad dressing of choice, but I'd recommend some form of Italian--whether traditional or one of the varieties of Italian dressing, such as sundried tomato flavored--or perhaps a Honey Mustard dressing if you're feeling adventurous.  

The "salad" is very easy to make and you can do a lot of the work ahead of time if you want to serve it for a special occasion (like a date!) or for the holidays!

The dish, though fresh and crisp due to the combination of fennel, asparagus, leeks, celery and fresh herbs, does make for a hearty meal.  This can be chalked up to the lentils, which pack a great deal of protein and lend the salad a more complex flavor and and texturally-diverse nature.  

NOTE:
If you are a lentil hater or planning to feed someone who doesn't like them, you could easily serve the salad over Quinoa (a super-grain that is a complete protein) or even over wild rice.

The salad is Gluten Free and vegetarian and could easily be made suitable for vegans by omitting the ricotta salata, which is a firm, salty ricotta cheese reminiscent of feta.


Recipe: Fennel, Asparagus, Spicy-Lentil and Mixed Greens "Salad"

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Green Lentils, rinsed and picked over
  • 1 onion, halved
  • 4 garlic cloves (whole)
  • 2 jalapeno or serrano chili peppers; halved and de-seeded if desired
  • 1 bunch Asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces and blanched
  • 1 medium Fennel Blulb, quartered, core removed and thinly sliced
  • Carrots, chopped or matchstick
  • 2-4 celery ribs, sliced
  • 1-2 leeks, cut in half and sliced into half-moon shape (make sure to discard large greens on top of leek and thoroughly wash to remove all dirt and sand)
  • 1 small bunch Cilantro, chopped (to your taste)
  • 1 small bunch Parsley, chopped (to your taste)
  • Mixed Greens (of your choice)
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Ricotta Salata, diced (omit for vegan)
  • Salt & Pepper (to taste; note: use smoked sea salt if desired)

Directions

  1. Prepare Green Lentils as instructed on packaging adding the halved onion, garlic cloves and chili peppers to the lentils so they absorb the flavors as they cook.  Add salt and pepper.
  2. Discard the onion halves, peppers, and garlic cloves when lentils are done cooking.
  3. Chop and then blanch the asparagus in boiling, salted water for roughly 4 minutes or until tender and immediately transfer to a large bowl of ice-water.  Set aside.
  4. To a large mixing bowl, add chopped fennel, celery, leeks, carrots, cooled asparagus, mixed greens, tomatoes, and herbs.  Add cubes of ricotta salata (or omit for vegan).
  5. Serve asparagus and fennel "salad" over top of cooled lentils and dress with Italian (or other) dressing of your choice.  Serve and enjoy!

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