Okay, it actually just became spring this week, but it’s been quite warm in Boulder, so that made me want to make something summery for dinner. Brighter flavors, and hey – how about even making it a cold dish?

The past weekend I walked through Whole Foods, and the yellow lentils caught my eye. (It’s that bright color thing again — oooh..pretty!) I’ve made plenty of dishes with brown lentils, red lentils, and even beluga lentils, but as far as I know, I’ve never made anything with yellow lentils.  So I bought a bunch, and left figuring out what I’d use them for for later.

So during my weekly meal brainstorming session, the summery dish and lentils came together, and I decided to made a cold fattoush-inspired salad with yellow lentils. (I can’t hear the phrase brainstorming without thinking of the Far Side Cartoon with dinosaurs sitting around a table and the caption ‘Well, time for our weekly brain-stem-storming session’. And much of the time I’m so stumped about what to make it kind of feels like that. But I digress (I really digress)).

My plan for the salad was to cook the lentils, add some cucumber, tomatoes, garlic, and pepper, and then dress the salad with a fattoush-type dressing. Neither my husband nor I are big fans of raw bell pepper in salads, so I sautéed that a bit to soften the peppers, and also sautéed most of the garlic at the same time. I knew that yellow lentils were trickier to cook than say, brown lentils, because they’re a bit thinner, and can turn mushy rather quickly if you overcook them. (Mmm…fattousch-inspired lentil mush. No thanks). So I was just careful to check them very frequently, and stopped as soon as they were tender, but still very much in one piece. This resulted in the perfect texture for the salad, really – they broke apart very easily when you ate them, but they were still firm enough to add some nice texture. You could make this with brown lentils as well, if you want the lentils to be a little more substantial.

The only ingredient in this dish that might be difficult to find is sumac, which is a reddish-purple powder made from the dried flowers of a specific type of sumac. You can find it in Middle-Eastern or Mediterranean grocery stores, or at the Savory Spice Shop in Boulder.

Lentils, Tomatoes, Pepper, Cucumber, Kalamata Olives, Garlic and Parsley

Lentils, Tomatoes, Pepper, Cucumber, Kalamata Olives, Garlic and Parsley

Fattoush-Inspired Lentil Salad
serves 3-4 as a main dish, more as a side

1 c yellow lentils
2 c water
2 cucumbers, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 c chopped tomatoes
10-20 kalmata olives, finely chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 T lemon juice
1 T red wine vinegar
2 T + 1 tsp olive oil, divided
1-2 tsp sumac
2 tsp mint, chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
1/2 c chopped parsley (or 2 T dried)
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the lentils according to package directions. For the lentils I bought in bulk, I put the lentils and water in a saucepan, brought them to a boil, and then simmered them, covered, for only about 10 minutes. (Just be sure to check them often!) Drain and set aside.

Sauté the pepper in 1 tsp olive oil until tender, then add 2/3 of the garlic and sauté for another 15 seconds or so. Set aside.

For the dressing, combine the remaining garlic, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, and sumac. (It won’t emulsify, so just mix it up the best you can – it will separate)

Put the lentils, cucumber, tomatoes, pepper, garlic, and kalmata olives into a large bowl, and then pour the dressing on top. Mix well to distribute the dressing, then add salt and pepper to taste. Adjust the amounts of the items in the dressing as desired (I added more red wine vinegar and lemon juice, but it turned out I had a surplus of liquid in the bottom at the end, so don’t go overboard). Add the parsley and mint and mix again. Refrigerate for an hour before serving to let the flavors combine.

Fattoush-Inspired Lentil Salad

Fattoush-Inspired Lentil Salad (on a completely unrelated cheetah-print background (although Wikipedia claims the cheetah range once extended to the region Fattoush hails from))

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