Saturday, August 1, 2009

Mango-lentil-yogurt salad

Sorry about the blurry picture. I can't always tell on my camera screen whether something is in focus. This one wasn't. A few days ago I had two friends over for a goodbye dinner before they moved to San Antonio. My initial plan was to serve spanakopita and carrot salad. They seem like good company food. But the day before they were going to come over, I found out that one of them is avoiding dairy, so I had to change my plan. The salad had been on the menu for later in the week, so I bumped it up a couple days and also made a spinach-chickpea-tofu skin curry, which will get its own post. The yogurt is not integral to the salad, so the non-dairy guy didn't have any, and the rest of us were happy.

I based this salad on something I saw in the most recent Bon Appetit. The original recipe calls for roast chicken, but I decided to recplace that with French lentils. They are smaller and darker than regular lentils, and they keep their texture better. Any bean would probably work, but I thought the lentils were perfect. Unusually for me, I used a purchased mango chutney in the dressing, and I was really glad I did. It had just the right blend of flavors and was basically no work. I felt so semi-homemade! (Maybe the completely homemade yogurt made up for it.) Also, the original recipe calls for arugula, which isn't our favorite green, so we just used red-leaf lettuce and supplemented it with fresh herbs and baby greens from my garden. You'll probably have some leftover lentils. I have been using them in green salads at lunch. They are very lightly spiced, so they shouldn't ruin any other flavor profiles. They would probably also be good in a pasta or grain salad. And just in case you aren't an Indian spice expert, kalonji are also known as nigella or black onion seeds. They are small black seeds that often top naan. They kind of look like black sesame seeds and can be found in Indian and Middle Eastern grocery stores.

Mango-lentil-yogurt salad
This recipe will make 5-6 salads.

1 cup French lentils, rinsed
Splash of red wine
1 tsp curry powder

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp mango chutney, large pieces finely chopped
Juice of 1 lemon or lime
1 tbsp curry powder
1 1/2 tsp water, or more

2-3 large lettuce leaves for each portion, rinsed and torn
Fresh herbs, such as basil, Thai basil, mint, and oregano, if desired
2 mangoes, peeled, pitted, and sliced
Plain yogurt
Kalonji and/or cumin seeds to garnish, optional

Cover the lentils in plenty of water in a medium saucepan. Add red wine and curry powder. Bring to a boil and lower to a simmer. Simmer until lentils are soft, about 20 minutes. Drain and reserve lentils.

Whisk together the dressing ingredients, adding a little extra water if needed to make a nice dressing. To assemble the salads, put the lettuce and herbs in bowls. Top each with several mango slices and about 1/3 cup of lentils. Pour 1-2 tbsp of dressing on each salad and top with a dollop of yogurt. Garnish with seeds.

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