Saturday, September 11, 2010

Lentil and Garlic Salad--from Lunch to Grill Party

I am not a big fan of social marathons. I like going out, seeing people, invite and be invited, but I can easily feel overwhelmed doing that too many times in a row. Funny enough, it often happens that way, as people get excited and socially active around the same occasions and holidays. That is what happens now, when people have returned from vacation to DC and want to meet friends after a couple months of the summer break, but cannot meet them all at the same time. As a result, I have on my schedule a picnic on Friday, grill on Saturday, and people coming over on Monday.

For today's grill I have offered to make a salad to accompany the delicious meats that the hosts will grill for us. Again a very easy one. I ate it first many years ago in Switzerland, and I make it quite often. It is very helpful to serve it at grill events, when we mostly serve meats, but also happen to have vegetarians among guests. Lentil is a plant that is third richest in protein, and also one of the best sources of iron, and therefore it can be a nutritious meal in itself especially when served with other vegetables. This lentil salad can also be served as a great lunch dish, just with fresh bread, and with or without cold cuts.

Lentil and Garlic Salad
(Six to eight servings)

3 cups of cooked lentil (canned lentil would be just fine--you would need two 15.5 oz cans),
2 pint boxes or 1 lb of cherry tomatoes,
1 bunch of dill--you will need about 1/2 cup of chopped dill,
2 cloves of garlic,
1/2 lb of Ricotta Salata cheese,
1 lemon,
3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil,
Pepper to taste.

1. If you use canned lentil, drain it, wash in cold water, drain again and place in a large bowl.
2. Cut tomatoes in half if they are of the larger variety, or leave them whole if they are very small, and add to the lentil.
3. Chop dill and add to the bowl.
4. Cut the cheese into very small cubes, mix it with all the ingredients.
5. Squeeze garlic into the salad.
6. Add pepper (no salt as Ricotta Salata is very salty already).
7. Add oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice, mix carefully and serve.

It is important to have all the ingredients cut into small pieces, as the salad prepared this way tastes better. I tried recently to make this salad in Poland--where Ricotta Salata is not widely available--with Feta cheese but this did not work because Feta is much more wet and soft than Ricotta Salata.

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