I’ve always been a little unclear of the correct terminology for lentils and peas and their friends. So I thought I’d take the time and look it up.
Apparently the legume family includes alfalfa, clover (no wonder sheep love it), peas, beans, lentils, lupins, soy, chickpeas and peanuts. According to Wikipedia legumes are the only types of plant that are able to take in nitrogen from the atmosphere and turn it into protein. So they tend to have a higher protein content than other non-legume plants, which makes them an excellent option for anyone looking to boost their protein intake without relying on animal sources.
It also makes them a perfect addition to salad, particularly if you are looking to serve it as a main course.
The stonesoup recipe index is a testament to my love of legume salads particularly lentils and chickpeas. I’m planning on doing a highlights tour of stonesoup salads at the end of this series but for now let me point your attention in the direction of two of my easiest and favourite legume salads.
First is a simple dish of chickpeas with parmesan cheese – simple enough to be able to be made with just a teaspoon. The other uses canned lentils – a new addition to my pantry. If you’re a lentil fan, I highly recommend my warm lentil salad with beets and ricotta.
Or there’s always a brilliant little number inspired by my current obsession – Nigel Slater. A combo of some of my all time favourite things – puy lentils, BBQ zucchini and proscitto or jamon. Just the thing for a long lovely Monday lunch with a dear old friend who is also currently free from corporate commitments.
lentil salad with BBQ zucchini & proscuitto
Inspired by Nigel Slater from Tender Volume 1. A cook and his vegetable patch.
Nigel salts his zucchini (courgettes) for an hour or so but I find it cooks just fine without it. And the minimalist in me prefers to save the time.
If you were after a vegetarian meal you could serve the salad with some goats cheese instead of the proscuitto or even toast up some pinenuts to make it more substantial.
Well washed, drained canned lentils could substitute in if you didn’t feel like cooking your own. About half a can would work in place of the dried lentils.
75g (3oz) small green lentils
1T red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, lightly crushed but still mostly whole
2T extra virgin olive oil
3 medium zucchini, finely sliced lengthwise into ribbons
2T olive oil
3 sprigs flat leaf parsley, leaves picked
100g (4oz) proscuitto, finely sliced to serve
Place lentils in a small saucepan. Cover with water and simmer until lentils are tender. Approx 15 mins. Drain.
Meanwhile, combine the vinegar, oil and garlic and season well. Toss the drained lentils through the dressing.
Preheat your BBQ or a char grill pan. Toss zucchini ribbons in the oil and season. Cook over a medium high heat until soft and well marked. Fish out and discard the garlic and toss the zucchini through the lentil mixture and add parsley.
Divide salad between two plates and serve with proscuitto passed separately.