Dinner in 30: Cherry Lentil Salad

Ok, I know what you are thinking. Cherries and Lentils. Really?

Yeah. Really.

I know, it sounds like an odd pair, I thought so too, but trust me on this one. Even the Mister liked it.

Cherries are in season here big time, and man if they aren’t a seductive fruit. Plump, shiny, bursting with juice. I look forward to them every years as they signal the start of summer in the PNW. But come the end of July, I’m scratching my head at what to do with them other than eating out of hand, freezing for smoothies, and pickling them. I want to say that I just continue to gorge myself of the flood of Bings and Rainers, stocking away enough sensory memories to last over the winter and spring, but that would be a lie. Instead I found this lovely recipe, pairing earthy lentils with bright cherries, basil, and a balsamic shallot vinaigrette.  I’ll have this a few more time before the season ends. Tell me, what do you do with cherries?

Cherry and Lentil Salad,

Adapted from Whole Foods Market

makes enough for everyone to have some at dinner and to take a little for lunch the next day.

1 cup brown lentils, washed and picked through

1 small shallot, minced

2 tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar

1/4 Cup fruity extra-virgin olive oil*- use the good stuff! Not the bottle you keep for cooking.

salt and pepper

1 1/2 lbs cherries, about 3-4 cups

1/3 cup basil, torn into small pieces

1. in a large pot bring 4 cups of water, lentils, and a big pinch of salt to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and alow lentils to cook, covered for 15-20 minutes. Start tasting them at 15 minutes and keep going. Taste a few before you deem them al dente.

2. In a small bowl, combine the shallot and balsamic vinegar. Slowly pour in the olive oil while whisking the whole while. Season with salt and pepper. Taste it. now add a little more salt or pepper, and taste again. Good? Good.

3. When the lentils have finished cooking strain the lentils into a basket strainer and gently shake to release excess water. Transfer lentils to a large mixing bowl and mix in the cherries and basil. Pour over the marinade and gently fold in the dressing, staring your spatula at the bottom of the bowl, lifting the lentil mixture over onto itself, almost like you are flipping pancakes, while turning the bowl a quart turn with every flip. This ensures even distribution without squashing the lentils and cherries.

4. This salad is best if you let it sit for an hour or so, but if you can’t wait, it will still taste fantastic. I promise.

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