The lady of the house to be warmed suffers from a nightshade allergy, so the original recipe (which calls for black and cayenne peppers) needed to be tweaked, and since I had just scored some za'atar from our amazing local Mediterranean grocery, I decided to switch things up a little. I basically increased the existing seasoning quantities, added a few extra to replace the pepper, and threw in whatever non-nightshade veggies were on hand, including a craptonne of leafy greens from a generous friend's garden. The beauty of this salad is you can use whatever fresh produce you like (lightly steamed asparagus and/or grilled eggplant or peppers come to mind), and you are guaranteed to be met with appreciative yummy noises and requests for the recipe - of course, it goes without saying that if a shot of cayenne or hot sauce floats your boat and causes no discomfort to you or yours, go for it!
Magical Lentil Salad
~ 2 ¼ cups Du Puy (or small green) lentils
~ 4 cups vegetable broth
~ 1 large red onion, diced
~ 1 cup dried currants
~ 1/3 cup capers
~ 3 carrots, grated
~ 3 stalks celery, diced
~ 2 cups chopped, fresh parsley
~ 4-6 cups chopped leafy greens (I used spinach, chard, kale, and arugula)
~ 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
~ 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
~ Juice of one lemon
~ 1 tbsp. each: maple syrup, prepared mustard, pomegranate molasses
~ 1 tbsp. za’atar
~ 2 tsp. ground cumin
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, marjoram, dill, garlic powder
~ 1/2 tsp. each: turmeric, cinnamon, coriander, cardamom
~ 1/4 tsp. each: ground cloves, nutmeg
~ Rinse the lentils and drain. Place in a pot with the vegetable broth, cover, and, bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes; they should be fully cooked but slightly al dente. During the last two minutes of cooking, add the red onion; this will take away that raw sharpness. Drain the lentils and onions into a large colander, rinse with cold water to stop any further cooking, and set aside.
~ In a large bowl, mix the dressing ingredients. Add the currants, capers, and chopped vegetables, followed by the drained lentils. Mix thoroughly to make sure that everything is coated.
~ Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least a few hours; the longer it sits, the better it will be (I made this a day in advance of the party for which it was destined). Serve cold or at room temperature, alone or on a bed of leafy greens, sprinkled with a little extra za'atar.