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Winter salads offer a break after holiday overload

Winter salads offer a break after holiday overload

You've bobbed along in a sea of gravy, buoyed by a lifeboat made of turkey, under a hot sun of melting butter. Now that Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are over, a winter salad, made with fresh seasonal vegetables and packed with nutrients and fiber, promises relief to your sugar-glazed palate.

A winter salad can be made ahead for a week's worth of lunches or several light dinners, with any greens added just before serving. Or, if you prefer, they can be served as a light counterpoint to a meal.

1 1/4 cups French green lentils

4 cups water

Salt and freshly ground pepper

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons minced red

onion

4 tablespoons julienned fresh basil leaves,

plus whole leaves for

garnish

1/2 cup baby spinach,

julienned

1/4 pound paper- thin prosciutto slices, cut into

strips 1 inch wide

1/3 pound fresh mozzarella , cut

into slices about 1/4 inch thick

Pick over lentils to remove any grit, then rinse well. In a saucepan over high heat, combine water and 1/2 teaspoon salt and bring to boil. Add lentils, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook until the lentils are tender but still hold their shape, about 20 to 25 minutes. Be careful not to overcook, or lentils will become soup! Remove from heat and drain well. Let cool to room temperature.

In a bowl, stir together olive oil, vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, onion, 2 tablespoons of the basil, spinach and all but one-fourth of the prosciutto. Add lentils and mix well.

Spoon lentils onto platter (or into a resealable plastic container, if you're taking salad for lunch). Arrange mozzarella slices around edges of platter or container, tucking them under lentils. Sprinkle remaining minced and whole basil leaves and prosciutto over lentils. Keep chilled until ready to eat.

Yield: 6 servings

4 cups water

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 cups long-grain white rice (or brown rice)

2 cups green beans, trimmed and lightly

cooked in boiling water, 3 to 5 minutes

2 cans tuna, preferably

olive-oil- packed

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice or white wine vinegar

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons capers, rinsed

1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley

1/2 chopped fresh basil, plus whole leaves for garnish

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

In a saucepan over high heat, combine water and 1/2 teaspoon salt and bring to boil. Add rice, bring back to boil, reduce heat to low, cover and cook until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes (or 45 for brown rice, adding a little water if necessary to keep from scorching). Remove from heat and let stand, covered, until completely cool, at least 1 hour. Separate grains with a fork.

Meanwhile, cook green beans, drain, rinse with cold water to stop cooking process, and drain again. Set aside. When rice is cool, drain tuna of excess oil, put it in bowl, and then flake with fork. In a large bowl, stir together lemon juice, olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Add rice, tuna, capers, green beans, parsley, chopped basil and cilantro and mix gently. Garnish with basil leaves.

Yield: 8 servings

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Amy McConnell Schaarsmith is a reporter for the Post-Gazette.

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