I’ve said it before: I’ve been trying to be a healthier, more conscious eater this year. So far, it’s going well. A big part of eating better, in my opinion, is making healthy choices every day, and with each meal. Don’t get me wrong. I still enjoy the occasional piece of chocolate or bag of chips, but overall I’m trying to put things into my body that are both nutritious and delicious and to change unhealthy eating habits at their root. And one of the things I’ve really discovered as full meals are (big surprise!) salads. When I grew up, salads were always something you were sort of required to eat. We didn’t have a lot of variation; there were maybe ten (or so) salad types around, mostly all dressed the same way. Sometimes, after we moved back to Germany, we’d buy little packets of powder and make salad dressing with them using a bit of water and oil. When I met my husband, I learnt how to make more than just that one salad dressing, and to indulge in other types of salad, but still, salads weren’t ever the main attraction in my meals.
Nowadays, I try to have salad at least once a day. Salads are an amazing work around to wanting a wonderful warm meal or allowing space for that calorie-laden snack without feeling guilty. At work, this is easy. They have a salad bar, which is quite amazing for an average canteen. Sometimes, I can even get the occasional bite of protein, when they serve pulses. The pulses come from a can, but who cares: they fill you up and give you energy. If I’m lucky, they will have feta or mozzarella or fresh herbs. If you’re following me on Facebook, you’ll know these pictures already, hehehe.I’ll admit, I do get bored on some days, as I can only have balsamic vinegar and olive oil with a bit of salt and pepper, but eating there has really inspired me to poke around the fridge for more salad ingredients and made me more daring in combining raw and cooked vegetables in one salad. This boredom has also pushed me toward new dressing ideas, because hell no, I’m not having a boring dressing at home, if I can avoid it. I no longer skimp at adding more ingredients to my salads, and on weekends they’re not also lunch for both the husband and I. I’ll be adding more of those salads as the summer progresses, but today I’ll introduce what I call Rainbow Salad, with warm lentils, toasted nuts and green monster dressing. Considering it’s being published this weekend, it’s also a tribute to Ireland and their referendum legalizing marriage for everyone! Go, Ireland! This salad basically four different types of salad leaves (romana, mache, rocket and pick and pluck lettuce), carrots, three types of tomatoes (orange, yellow and red) and cucumber. If you are feeling adventurous add canned corn, avocado and any other fun vegetable such as kohlrabi, red beets (cooked, obviously), zucchini or baked, herbed mushrooms. I love this dressing so much, because it is creamy without having any cream in it. I’m a sucker for creamy salad dressings, which will, unfortunately, defeat the whole purpose of eating salad.
100g lentils (either buy them certified gluten-free or sort them in order to remove any glutinous kernels, e.g. wheat; you can obviously also use kidney beans or other pulses)
300ml vegetable broth
50g roman, mache, rocket and pick and pluck lettuce (you can obviously also use other types of salad, if you like)
150g cocktail tomatoes
half a cucumber or any other fun vegetable, e.g. left over steamed green asparagus sunflower, pumpkin and pine nut seeds 30g low-fat feta (cut into small squares; optional)
Ingredients for the Green Monster Dressing (will last you for more than one salad; will keep in fridge in a tightly locked container for up to one week)
1 large green onion (or two small ones, just don’t overdo it, you will cry from all the spiciness! Been there, done that!)
1 tbsp fresh or frozen parsley freshly ground pepper salt
1 tsp Dijon mustards
1 tsp honey (for a vegan version, use agave syrup)
8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar (I used a mixture of rose and black)
Sort through the lentils, in order to remove any wheat or rye kernels. Then place into a pot with the vegetable broth and boil for about fifteen minutes, until somewhat tender, just prior to falling apart.
Meanwhile, wash your salad leaves and place into individual heaps in your salad bowl. Wash the tomatoes and halve them. Place into an individual pile within the salad bowl. Wash and peel the carrots and then cut into thin slices or grate finely.
Peel the cucumber, cut lengthwise twice and then cut small slices into an individual heap in the salad bowl. If you are adding feta, now is the time to add a little pile of feta squares. Place all the ingredients for the Green Monster Dressing into the chopping unit of your hand held blender. Run the blades through it for about a minute. Drain the lentils with the help of a colander. Run a bit of cold water through the lentils and place them in the middle of the salad bowl, so that they are surrounded by all the other vegetables. Finally, roast the sunflower and pumpkin seeds and the pine nuts all together in one small pot and then throw over the salad. Pour about four tablespoons of Green Monster Dressing over your salad and then proceed to mix the salad with the help of your salad cutlery. Serve the salad immediately. Enjoy! 🙂