I didn’t have a plan for dinner tonight. We already had pasta and sandwiches with chickpeas and tzatziki this week, and plans for pork with rice on Thursday. I wanted a different protein, so I pulled lentils from the pantry. The lentils reminded me of this salad, but I wanted it to be a meal in itself so I grabbed some quinoa. The fridge was stocked with cucumbers, kohlrabi, cilantro, scallions, and fresh onions from Potter Hill. I love the tahini dressing with the Smitten Kitchen lentil salad, so I just barely adapted it to fit what I had on hand (I only had one small lemon, so I used vinegar as well to have enough acid).
What resulted is a salad that could be easily adapted with the grain, protein, and vegetables you have on hand. What is most important to me is the pickled onions to brighten, and the creamy dressing to bring everything together.
Quinoa Lentil Salad with Summer Veg and Tahini Dressing
- 1 cup green (Le Puy) lentils, rinsed
- 1 garlic clove, halved
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup quinoa
- 3 cups of water, divided
- 1 small fresh onion, chopped (mine was the size of a large shallot and about 1/4 cup chopped)
- 1 tablespoon red wine or sherry vinegar
- 4 small or 2 medium cucumbers, chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 1 medium kohlrabi, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 3 scallions, chopped
- 1 handful cilantro leaves, chopped (about 1/4 cup chopped)
- 1 teaspoon sumac (optional)
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds (optional)
- 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 large garlic clove
- 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons well-stirred tahini
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons red wine or sherry vinegar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons water
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the rinsed lentils, both halves of the garlic clove, bay leaf, and olive oil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook for 25-30 minutes. Check halfway through and add a bit more water if necessary. The lentils should be soft, but not falling apart. Taste a few to ensure the batch is done. Drain, and allow to cool for a few minutes.
Put 1 cup of water in a small saucepan to boil. Add the quinoa and a pinch of salt, cover, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the top, fluff with a fork, and allow to cool for a few minutes.
In a small dry pan toast the cumin and coriander over medium heat for 2-3 minutes until fragrant and lightly toasted. Cool slightly, and grind in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.
Add the minced onion to a small bowl and toss with the one tablespoon of vinegar. Let sit for 10 minutes (or more if you have time).
Mince the garlic, and then use the 1/2 tablespoon of salt and the side of your knife to mash it into a paste (use your knife to scrape the garlic and salt against the cutting board repeatedly until a paste forms). In a jar add the ground spices, the garlic salt paste, and the rest of the dressing ingredients. Cap the jar and shake to combine.
In a large bowl toss the cooked lentils, cooked quinoa, chopped cucumber and kohlrabi, scallions, cilantro, and dressing. Toss until everything is thoroughly mixed and coated in the dressing. Garnish with the sumac and sesame seeds (if using).