Spicy carrot, lentil and peanut salad


Lately my usual "lighten up" fun favorites pastime has shifted a little, to other compatibly focused goals that can be somewhat less exciting, but make more of a resonant, daily impact. One, I'm trying add wholesome variety to  the breakfast routine, swapping the bowl of not always all that fortified cereal for whole grains based breakfast bowls more often. Another, I've been exploring ways of front-loading our vegetables more, and more wisely. This is because it randomly registered in my brain the other week that a commanding majority of the produce I consume before about 6 pm is usually fruit, which, while nutrient-rich, can nevertheless consequently add up the sugars. Plus, it's just not as balanced nutritionally as I'd like to be.  You'd think the adjusted balancing act would be pretty straightforward, and not much of a challenge; sandwiches typically welcome lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes, and salads should be an easy lunchtime choice, for instance. But admittedly, when it comes to putting care and time into meals, my most concerted efforts apply to the end of the day, both from cooking and planning perspectives. Often,  leftovers are  assigned as another night's dinner, and I'll grab a random assortment of healthy but mis-matched and same-y items on the go in the morning, making for a motley lunch.  But in the past month, I started getting into the routine of making a big batch of a something whole grains and fruity, like the tangy brown rice salad, on Sunday,  and dipping from it for a simply portable breakfast throughout the week was not only a refreshing change, it didn't take much time at all out of my weekend to prepare. So, recently I've been on the lookout for ideas that will allow me to pull more of a spectrum of veggies into the earlier hours of the day, something ideally that can last a day or two without wilting, and doesn't require excessive prep. This lentil salad is one of the attempts. This started out as a take on a Nigella Lawson recipe, which was in turn her interpretation of a favorite restaurant salad she calls "The Rainbow Room's Carrot and Peanut Salad", but it became something entirely different. In the original (eg Nigella's) recipe, there are 5 simple ingredients: carrots, salted peanuts, red wine vinegar, groundnut oil, and a few drops of sesame oil. So, carrots and peanuts, basically. She coarsely grates the carrots, then pushes them through a french-fry cutter in the processor, or just cuts them into skinny batons, kind of like in julienne. I decided I would shred carrots with zucchini, since I love that combination, but I coarsely chopped everything quickly without really pausing to notice what I was doing, and realized that adding simply adding peanuts, oil and vinegar would not a salad make, so decided to add lentils and a few other things. I had my doubts, but  liked the results. This salad was on the spicy side, nicely so, I felt, but a milder version would be just as good.

Spicy  carrot, lentil and peanut salad

  • 1 cup green or red lentils
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 medium carrots
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon (or just under) olive oil
  • a few drops of sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • Juice of 1 lime wedge
  • 3/4 cups peanuts (I used half lightly salted, and half were Trader Joe's Thai lime and chili peanuts, sent from the east coast by my Mom, which kicked up the heat; Oh, I wish we could get Trader Joe's in Colorado!!)

1. Rinse the lentils, then cook in broth and water until tender.

2. While lentils are cooking, coarsely chop carrots and zucchini and set aside.

3. Mix dressing: in a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, olive and sesame oils, soy sauce, chili powder, and lime juice.

4. When lentils are cooked, combine all ingredients, including peanuts, stirring well to mix.

*It's a random side note, but I lived in Taiwan for a year in between college and grad school. While there, I fell in love with these interesting, fat lima-bean sized legumes. I ate them with chop sticks and some kind of dipping sauce, and I wondered what this mysterious nutty bean could be...only to find out they were plain old peanuts. Point is, when storing this salad, the peanuts lose their crunch, but acquire a softness similar to whole edamame, and it's good. : )