Lentils are so good for us, and just recently lentils.ca has been trying to remind us - with magazine inserts, social media campaigns and the FUNdeLENTIL tour and restaurant contest. Visit the lentil site for some terrific recipe ideas. This recipe is directly from Canadian Living. Take a few minutes to review my Tips at the end. It can be served warm, room temperature or cold. Works well as a picnic salad! Serves 12.

1/3 cup (75 mL) slivered almonds, toasted

Almonds will be added at the end, but sometimes I make them the day before, or before I begin. This probably has something to do with the fact that when busy / distracted I often burn nuts that I am toasting - haha.

1/2 cup (125 mL) wild rice
2/3 cup (150 mL) green lentils or brown lentils
1/2 cup (125 mL) orzo pasta
1/2 cup (125 mL) currants
1/4 cup (60 mL) finely chopped red onion

Cook the wild rice for 10-15 minutes (see Tips) in a large (covered) pot of boiling salted water. (Add lots of water. You'll be draining off extra water at the very end.) Give the rice a stir at the half-way mark and before adding the lentils - stir well to ensure the rice has not stuck to the bottom of the pan.

Add/ stir in lentils and boil for 20 minutes. Add orzo; cook just until tender, about 5 -10 minutes. Drain well and transfer to large bowl. Add currants and onion right away. (in fact, I often place the currants and onions into the mixing bowl I plan to use, and then plop the cooked mixture on top.)

1 tsp (5 mL) ground cumin
1/2 tsp (2 mL) granulated sugar
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1/2 tsp (2 mL) ground coriander
1/4 tsp (1 mL) turmeric
1/4 tsp (1 mL) paprika
1/4 tsp (1 mL) nutmeg
1 pinch cinnamon
1 pinch cloves
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1/4 cup (60 mL) white wine vinegar
1 tsp (5 mL) Dijon mustard
1/3 cup (75 mL) canola oil or vegetable oil

Dressing: In small bowl, whisk together vinegar, cumin, mustard, sugar, salt, coriander, turmeric, paprika, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and cayenne; whisk in oil. Pour over rice mixture and toss gently.

Let cool; cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours. (Make-ahead: Refrigerate for up to 24 hours.) To serve, sprinkle salad with almonds. (Note re appearance - when first mixed, the colours may not be as vibrant as a half hour later when vinaigrette is soaked in.)

Notes and Tips...

  • Wild Rice -  I like to use "Oh Canada: Wild Rice". The cooking instructions for this rice add up to almost an hour - and from personal experience, I know wild rice can take ages to be optimally palatable. Thus, I was surprised that this recipe starts with the wild rice cooking for only 10 minutes. Admittedly, that cooking time is longer since the wild rice stays in the pot while the lentils and orzo cook. Nonetheless, I start by cooking the wild rice for 15 minutes.
  • Lentil type - green or brown lentils are easily available at grocery stores (and should not be confused with de Puy lentils)
  • Red Onion - it will be tempered by its addition to warm ingredients, but for someone who does not like raw onions in salads, here's the quick soaking tip.
  • Slivered Almonds - not to be confused with sliced almonds. Ideally the almonds are sprinkled on at the end to retain their crunch. Once mixed into the salad they soak up some of the dressing and are less crunchy - but they still add a nice texture.
  • Toast Almonds - for such a small amount, I do this in a small pan on the stove top; shake / stir pan from time to time and never walk away. Will not reveal how many times almonds have reached the burn point because I was distracted with other kitchen tasks - eek! Once done, remove from pan since the residual heat once off the burner might brown them beyond the point you were aiming for.
  • Cool - undoubtedly, the flavour would be enhanced by letting the salad cool for a bit, but I admit I have eaten this right away - and even days later.
  • Colour - I have noticed that the colour on this salad when first mixed is a bit "muddy". I have no idea about the "physics", but after an hour or so, it begins to look rich and glossy.
  • Make ahead - toast the almonds, make the dressing and measure out the other ingredients head of time or even the day before and this comes together shockingly quickly . It tastes great even on day three - have never seen it last longer than that.
  • Modified - I recently came across a modified version of this also from Canadian Living - it leaves out the orzo and a few of the spices.

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