Fill to the Max

This is going to be another recipe designated as “healthy.” It happens to involve lentils again, and I’m sorry for the lack of variety so far in that department. I swear I’m not that obsessed with lentils. Though it is impressive how satisfying they can be, acting as a protein-provider in the absence of meat. Vegetables are the star in this one.

Let me talk a little bit about the ingredients. This recipe calls for another one of those herb bunches, this time: mint.
I had bought the mint a few days earlier, actually, to use in a recipe for chicken biryani. Where is this recipe, you ask? Well, it wasn’t exactly…good. My version of this Indian rice dish with spices turned out bland! There were a few problems. Even though I went as far as to use some whole spice freshly ground, I didn’t have all of the exact spices. (Apparently, BLACK cumin seeds are a critical ingredient in garam masala). And I was cooking with a friend with whom I was also catching up, and I was distracted and didn’t taste until it was too late (thank goodness Tom Colicchio wasn’t judging). We all ate it anyway, of course, with the help of good old pepper and salt. Perhaps I’ll try this again and apply what I learned and tell you about it then.


Please forgive the white balance problem with this picture. One of these days I’ll work on photo editing. My kitchen window frame and walls are not actually that yellow-orange.

I picked up the asparagus, red pepper, and red onion for this recipe. My red onion was actually large enough that I used half of it thinly sliced in a simple salad with two small fresh vine tomatoes, chopped and one sliced avocado in a cider vinegar/lemon-lime juice vinaigrette (to satisfy a craving for a dish that had been served at Matt’s Aunt and Uncle’s Easter feast). Asparagus represents Spring, of course. In fact, it was a beautiful, bright sunny afternoon/evening when I made this food, with the early bulbs in bloom in my garden. Here’s a look at the view of my back yard from the window by my kitchen counter:

And I love, love, love keeping goat cheese on hand. I can eat that stuff with almost anything–greens, vegetables, legumes, grains, pasta…you name it. Remember, I had it on the kale pizza last week.

Let’s get to it:

Lentil Salad with Roasted Veggies
from Good Housekeeping‘s March 2013 “Dr. Oz’s 7-Day High-Energy Meal Plan” article
2 cup dried green lentils, rinsed and picked through
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
1 small red pepper, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup (from 2-3 limes) fresh lime juice
1/3-1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
Mixed greens
2 ounces soft goat cheese, crumbled

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

In 4-quart covered saucepan, heat 6 cups water to boiling on high. Stir in lentils. Reduce heat to maintain simmer. Simmer, covered, 25 to 30 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Drain well.

Meanwhile, in large jelly-roll pan, toss asparagus, red pepper, and onion with 1 tablespoon olive oil (regular olive oil stands up to heat better), 1/2 teaspoon cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper. Roast 18 to 20 minutes or until tender, stirring and turning pan halfway through.
For the dressing: in a large bowl, whisk together lime juice, mint, 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, remaining 1/4 teaspoon cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper.

Add hot lentils and vegetables to dressing; toss until well coated. Divide greens among serving plates. Top with lentil mixture and goat cheese.

I ate this warm for dinner. I took a leftover serving to work the next day and ate it cold for lunch–it works that way too! I mentioned the high protein content earlier, and the high fiber also makes it filling. Those facts were clear later in the afternoon, when I felt no need for a 2:30pm snack. HIGHLY unusual.

Happy Spring!

Healthy Choice

Remember the leeks from the broccoli soup recipe? Well, the store doesn’t sell leeks individually — you have to buy several — so I had some left over.  I also wanted to use fish in a meal I cooked one of these days.  As you may know, one of the those recommended habits for healthy eating is incorporating 2-3 servings of fish per week, to gain the benefits from healthy fats.  This meal was going to be shared with my husband for once, and while quite fit in general, Matt’s blood work has shown that he could improve his cholesterol levels.

I came across a recipe on the Food Network website by Ina Garden for “Salmon with Lentils.”  Subsequently, while searching for a particular recipe among my saved selections and reading through several, I discovered that leeks and salmon and leeks and lentils are common combinations. I am going to try to store this tidbit in my memory for future planning. This recipe also used–surprise surprise–more celery and carrots from my refrigerator stock.

Salmon with Lentils

adapted from Ina’s Barefoot in Paris

Serves 2 plus 1-2 servings of leftovers

6 ounces lentils (I had this much left of black beluga lentils I bought in a whim with a gift card to Williams Sonoma. These are great lentils though, if you can find them, and they work well in place of green lentils, which could also work here).
a few tablespoons of olive oil
1.75 cups chopped yellow onions
1.5 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts only (Leeks can acquire a lot of dirt and grime during harvest. To prepare, cut to separate white and light green part from green leaves. Cut once lengthwise. Submerge in a bowl of cold water and slosh layers around. Drain and then arrange pieces together to chop crosswise).
3/4 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1.5 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup homemade chicken stock, or good canned broth
1.5 tablespoons tomato paste (Hint: when you open a can of tomato paste, which rarely needs to be used in its entirety, measure individual tablespoon amounts into small pieces of plastic wrap or into ice cube trays and freeze.  Keep scoops together in a container for later use)
1.5 tablespoons red wine vinegar, or to taste
6-8 oz center-cut salmon fillets, in the quantity of the number of people you are serving (in my case, 2, wild-caught all the way)

Place the lentils in a heat-proof bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside for 15 minutes, then drain.

Heat oil in a medium-large saute pan.  Add the onions, leeks, thyme, salt, and pepper and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent. 

Add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the drained lentils, celery, carrots, chicken stock, and tomato paste. Cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Add the vinegar and season to taste.

While the lentils are simmering, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

For the salmon, heat a cast-iron or other oven-proof saute pan over high heat for 4 minutes. Rub both sides of the salmon fillets with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.


When the pan is very hot, place the salmon in the pan and cook over medium heat without moving them for 2 minutes, until very browned. Flip fillets, and move pan into preheated oven.  Cook 5-7 minutes, until the salmon is cooked rare and still moist. Scoop lentil-vegetable mixture on plates and place a salmon fillet on top.

Enjoy your meal, and look forward to the dessert you can afford to have because you made a healthy choice for dinner! 🙂