As soon as spring strikes, I start to think about summer. I begin to look forward to the smell of sunscreen on hot skin, evenings filled with the smells of barbeques and fresh cut grass, the quenching tartness of my favourite lemonade and the sense of freedom that comes with the summer months. Between now and then there are a multitude of sensory delights that come with spring that should not be overlooked: local strawberries, longer evenings, cherry blossoms, getting our hands in the warm soil of the garden – the experiences are endless.
In a fit of nostalgia and desire looking forward to warmer, brighter days, I built this quick and easy salad. I feel no shame in using canned lentils and frozen peas here, and neither should you. We are busy people! We have places to be and people to see; we must forgive ourselves for not always (or ever) soaking our own lentils. Life is so short, just open that can! What really makes this one a winner is the combination of textures: creamy-firm lentils, crunchy iceberg, and the sweet pop of peas. Top it all with a zingy, savory dressing and a sprinkle of herbs and seeds and you are on your way to a very happy place. I couldn’t resist, as I was assembling this salad, testing and tasting the dressing, that it would be set off so perfectly with a skewer of grilled prawns or a lightly charred chicken breast, earning this speedy salad a place on the summer dinner roster.
Lentil Salad with Sesame Dressing
The quantities below make for 4 small side salads or 2 meal sized salads, so adjust up or down based on how many friends you are feeding. Grilled chicken or shrimp will round this salad out and make for a more robust meal, however, it is excellent just as it is.
½ of 1 large iceberg lettuce, finely shredded
2 C cooked lentils
1 C peas
juice of ½ a lemon + equal amount of olive oil
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
salt and pepper
¼ of a red onion, minced
1 clove of garlic, minced or grated
a generous handful of chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp sesame seeds, divided
Chop the iceberg and toss it into a shallow serving bowl, or distribute it between individual plates. If using canned lentils, rinse them well with cool running water and drain them. If using frozen peas, place them in a colander or sieve under running water until they are no longer frozen, about 1 minute. Stir the lentils and peas together. Set aside.
To make the dressing, combine the onion, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and sesame oil in a tightly sealing jar. Shake vigorously. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as desired. If it’s a bit rich from the 2 oils, add another blast of lemon juice to even it out.
Pour the lentils and peas over the lettuce. Dress right before serving with all of the dressing. Sprinkle with fresh chopped cilantro and sesame seeds. Serve immediately.