salad warmth

warm lentil salad

warm green lentil, chorizo & cavolo nero salad

Now that winter is drawing nigh, I am finding that my mid week meals when I am dining at home have been undergoing a slight metamorphosis.  Sure the same basic need is there…I rarely have more than 1/2 hour to spend preparing dinner and am looking for something tasty and nutritious without being too heavy. But lately the thought of a cold salad with a glass of crispy riesling has been leaving me, well cold….

My solution, apart from the odd bowl of soup has for the most part been warm salads. Sure there’s still the fundamental elements of leaves or vegies of some sort combined with a punchy dressing and some flavour packed superstar highlight. But the key difference has been that these highlighting ingredients have tended to be cooked and served warm. 

Last week I found myself with some pesto that desperately needed eating up along with a baby cos lettuce in a similar state. But rather than force myself to decide between a warming bowl of penne pesto and a crunchy salad, I decided to combine the two.  The inspiration for pasta as a salad ingredient came from my time in France. One lunchtime I decided that I just had to try the intriguing ravioli salad…and was pleasantly surprised with one of those big cafe salads that the French do so well…lots of fresh leaves perfectly dressed and wearing an unusual accessory: mini cheese filled ravioli that had been pan fried so they were golden and crispy…kinda like a crouton with the bonus of a dreamy cheesy filling.

While I’m still waiting for the right moment to have a go at replicating my French experience, my most successful warm salad in recent times has combined two of my favourite things: chorizo sausage and green lentils.  It’s hard to go past the smoky, spicy goodness of BBQ chorizo and it makes a perfect addition to a salad because a little slice packs a lot of flavour punch. For this salad you need to find the gorgeous small French style lentils that come from the region of Puy in France. The Puy lentils have an intense nutty flavour and the added benefit of holding their shape when cooked so your salad won’t turn out a pile of lentily mush. They really are the Rolls Royce of the lentil world and I think it’s always nice to splurge on the best that money can buy whenever your budget allows…especially if it still comes in at under $10 a pack.  Luckily in Australia the good people of Mount Zero have started growing a local version of the Puy that is stocked by David Jones Food Halls and good delis so there’s no longer the need to rely on imports… local…all good things…

warm green lentil, chorizo & cavolo nero salad
serves 2

Once again the talented Karen Martini and her column in the Sunday Life has been the inspiration behind this salad. If you wanted a vego option you could replace the chorizo with some marinated feta and a pinch of dried chilli flakes.

The only place I’ve ever been able to find cavolo nero is Fratelli Fresh. It is an Italian black cabbage that is used in the famous Tuscan soup: ribolitta. Baby spinach leaves are a reasonable substitute but the more complex earthy flavour provided by the cavolo nero makes it worth the effort of tracking it down.

1/2 C (100g) french style green lentils
1 bay leaf
1/2 red onion very finely sliced
2T red wine vinegar
2T balsamic vinegar
1T dijon mustard
4 sprigs thyme leaves picked
5T extra virgin olive oil
120g cavolo nero (italian loose leaf black cabbage) or baby spinach
1 chorizo sausage, halved width wise and then sliced length wise into 5mm slices
handful continential parsley, leaves picked
sourdough baguette and extra dijon mustard to serve

Heat a small saucepan on a medium high heat and add lentils and dry toast for 1-2 minutes to enhance their nuttiness.  Cover the lentils with water and add the bay leaf. Bring to the boil and simmer until the lentils are cooked adding additional water if it gets to dry.

Meanwhile for the dressing combine vinegars and mustard in a large bowl and add onion and allow to sit for a few minutes for the flavours to combine. Whisk in olive oil, add thyme leaves and season with s&p. 

When lentils are tender or slightly al dente drain and discard any remaining cooking liquid and toss warm lentils in the dressing and allow to stand for a few minutes.

Cook chorizo on a hot BBQ until golden on each size. Drain on paper towel to remove excess oil.

Add cavolo nero leaves to the lentil mixture and toss to combine. Divide the salad between 2 dinner plates and tuck in the chorizo slices and sprinkle with parsley. Serve with crusty sourdough and extra mustard.


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