Eating better food for less and other tales from a no-moneymoon

Monday, July 19, 2010

Cold Lentil Salad with Feta and Thyme

Sometimes a winter food needs to come out and play in the summer heat. Lentils, while wonderful in a hearty soup or a spicy Indian dish, don't usually conjure memories of hot summer days. But that's actually how I first came to enjoy them. My mother started making this cold lentil salad one summer and it became a favorite. And who can deny it's appeal: salty feta, tangy lemon, the subtle but persistent taste of thyme melding with the earthy lentils. It's a healthy, hearty salad that is best made ahead and allowed to soak in its flavors.

Of course, that means it has to make it to the refrigerator unscathed. Go ahead and have a bowl. Say you're adjusting the flavors. I won't tell.

So don't let those lovely, healthy and *thrifty* lentils waste away in the pantry until the first frost. With this salad, it's thyme for them to come out and party (and apparently inspire bad puns.)

Cold Lentil Salad with Feta and Thyme

1 - 1 1/2 cups lentils, rinsed
Water to cover
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lemon, juiced
2 Tablespoons olive oil
10 sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
2 ribs celery, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 tomatoes, diced
Feta, crumbled, to taste (I usually use about 1/3 cup)

Rinse and sort through the lentils in a strainer to make sure there are no stones. I have only had this happen once, but why risk it?

Place lentils in a saucepan and cover with water. Cook on medium-high until lentils are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the lentils and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the garlic, oil, lemon juice and the thyme leaves. Yes, it is a pain to pull off the thyme from their woody stems, but totally worth it. It's easier if the thyme is not wet, so washing it ahead of time is a really good idea.

Mix in the lentils and when cool add the celery, onion, tomato and feta. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve cold as a lighter lunch or dinner or a side dish.

Lentils offer lean protein at a low price
Summer flavors make this a great cold treat for a hot day
A make-ahead dish, this is perfect for summer visitors

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