I almost don’t want to say this lest I jinx it with the weather gods but… spring has finally sprung around these parts. And this means only one thing to all self-respecting Parisians: it’s time to get your picnic on!
This is the time of year when people come out in droves to occupy any and all patches of grass in the parks. And this being not the greenest city in the world (sigh), I am really not exaggerating when I say “droves”: our local park, the glorious Buttes-Chaumont, is like Times Square in rush hour on a sunny Sunday in spring. But since most of us don’t have backyards (and only the lucky few balconies, which isn’t even the same thing), we don’t really have much choice but to grab the blankets, pack some food and drink, and go out to claim our own patch of green.
Of course to me the picnic is its own category of food and one of my favorites at that. Enter the spoon salad, one of my go-to picnic foods. When the sun finally peeked out this last weekend, I put this together from what I had on hand, and was quite pleased with the results.
Note that this salad requires some planning ahead since you need to soak the lentils for at least 7 hours (or overnight) beforehand but that’s all hands-off time of course. Also, picnic-weather or not, I like to have some cooked lentils on hand regularly to throw together quickly for a lunch or make a soup.
The truth is, I almost feel silly sharing a “recipe” for a salad. In case this needs repeating, please know that you can swap out these ingredients or add to them endlessly based on what’s in season and what you have on hand. For example, you can add some feta, goat cheese or blue cheese for an extra kick. A poached egg would also be a perfect accompaniment. Oh and how about chopped celery? Feel free to tinker and let your imagination take over.
- 1 cup Beluga lentils (you can also use "lentilles du Puy" - both of these are varieties that will retain their shape and not "melt away" when cooked)
- 1 cup black rice
- 1 medium red onion, chopped finely
- 2 tablespoons dried cranberries
- 1 tablespoon cumin powder
- Fresh mint, chopped
- 1 tablespoon apple cider or red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and freshly-ground pepper
- Soak the lentils in warm water and 1 tbsp lemon juice or whey for at least 7 hours or overnight.
- Rinse the lentils, add them to a pot, and add enough filtered water to cover them by 2-3 cm. Bring them to a boil, and then bring the heat down to a simmer, cooking until they are tender, about one hour.
- In the meantime, follow the package instructions to prepare your black rice. In my case, I added 1.5 cup of water to 1 cup of rice, brought it to a boil and then simmered for about 45 mins, or until tender. Drain and set aside.
- When both the lentils and the rice have cooled down a bit, mix them together and add the cranberries, onions, mint and cumin powder.
- Prepare the dressing by mixing the vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.
- Add the dressing to the salad, mix well, and store in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes for the flavors to blend together.