I am finally incorporating some greens back into my repertoire. It is not that they disappeared entirely, but I got a little lazy. The idea of washing, drying, de-stemming, and chopping fibrous leafy things all seemed a bit much. I blame it on the heat, and on the fact that I have not been able to go to the farmer's market in over a month since we have been out of town so often. I find the farmers' market very inspiring- seeing all of the producers there makes me want to celebrate their little labors of love, and without trips there, I veered off of the vegetable path. It became easier to sink into a routine of eating eggs, avocado, and cheese on toast rather than actually making a crunchy, green thing with some nutritional value. Finally my body seems to have had enough of avocado and coconut butter, eggs and cheese, and banana and peanut butter as excuses for lunch because suddenly I found myself cleaning, de-stemming, and chopping all sorts of green things- curly kale and lacinato kale, Swiss chard, red leaf lettuce, and zucchini...recipes for dishes with each of these coming soon, by-the-way. I did not know yet what I was going to do with them all, but it was much easier to do it all in one swoop and store them in containers in the fridge, ready to go for when I actually figured that part out.
I am usually pretty good about doing this prep-now-cook-later-thing with my greens. I learned a few years ago, especially when I was busy in grad school, that one of the barriers to making most vegetable dishes is the prep time in getting them recipe-ready. It is so much easier to get them all clean and ready right when I bring them home from the market or grocery store and store them in plastic containers lined with tea towels or paper towels so that I can have them easily available. It sounds idealistic, but once it becomes a habit, it is a godsend. Just do not be like me and fall off the wagon and start eating all of your meals on toast. Or if you do fall off, try to get back on. Life happens, and we adjust.
Now on to the actual recipe. This is a really satisfying salad. The different textures, the bulk, the brightness, all make this a salad that you keep digging your fork into. Kale is the perfect "lettuce" for this sort of salad because it can stand up to the weight of the dressing. Lacinato kale softens better than the curly kind, so that is really what I prefer here. Basil and parsley are here to break up the "green" flavor that kale can have, so I am generous with them. Plus, fresh basil makes me happy that it is summer. I threw in some cooked beluga lentils that I had in the freezer and thawed and tossed in cooked barley that I had also in the freezer and thawed. Beluga lentils provide a nice little toothsome quality to this salad but canned (and drained) chickpeas could work in a pinch, as would any grain, rice, or small pasta you like.
The onions are cooked down to give just a touch of sweetness, cumin is there for its earthy flavor, and the Greek yogurt and lemon add a creamy tang that brightens it all up. This is a great salad to make ahead of time as it slowly becomes more tender without feeling wilted. Yay for greens!
Kale and Beluga Lentil Salad with Lemon Yogurt Dressing
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
scant 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 bunch lacinato kale, stems removed and leaves cut in chiffonade
1/2 cup cooked grain of choice (I used hulled barley)
1/2 cup cooked beluga lentils (or chickpeas)
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, cut in chiffonade
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
1 lemon, zest and juice
3 tablespoons Greek yogurt (I recommend 2% Greek yogurt here for a little more richness)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted* and chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onion and garlic, and cook over medium heat for about 6-8 minutes or until onion is soft and golden. Add the cumin and cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Remove mixture from heat and allow to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, massage the kale with 2 tablespoons extra-virgin oil and a sprinkling of salt until kale begins to soften. This can take about a minute or so. Add the grain, lentils, basil, and parsley, and stir to combine.
When the onion mixture has cooled, add the lemon zest, lemon juice, yogurt, and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and stir to mix. Add this mixture to the kale and lentil mixture, toss in the chopped walnuts, and use tongs to combine. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper. Enjoy! Serves 4-6.
*To toast walnuts, toast in oven at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until golden.