I've been pretty lazy about blogging this past week, so I'm bringing you another vegetarian lunch with Melissa back to back with the last one. I know that you don't mind, though, because our lunches are AWESOME. This one, in my opinion, is one of the best we have done recently. Lentils, chickpeas, raw onion, and feta with tahini, sesame, and herbs. So good, so satisfying, creamy and crunchy, nutty and sharp, it's everything. And so, so healthy. Let's also take a second to appreciate how gorgeous Melissa's platter is. She has the best dishware!
The only thing that takes time in this recipe is cooking the lentils, but they are pretty hands off and you can do them ahead of time and keep them in the fridge til you need them. This recipe has you cook them with sage and garlic to infuse the lentils with flavor - I love it.
While the lentils are cooking, toss red onion with olive oil, lemon juice, feta, and herbs. I was a little unsure about this at first - so much raw red onion? But it became my favorite part of the dish. The lemon juice kind of cures the onions as they sit and mellows them out. They become sharp, crunchy bits of awesomeness in the salad. Also, feta - I love feta. I especially love Mt Vikos Traditional Sheep and Goat feta. I swear they are not sponsoring me, but they really should (hint, hint) because I use their feta all the time.
When the lentils are done, discard the aromatics and drain any remaining liquid. Then toss them with the chickpeas, tahini dressing, and lemon zest (which we used in place of preserved lemon).
Gently combine the two mixture and top with toasted sesame seeds and more herbs. You know I hate cilantro, so we just used parsley and Melissa added cilantro to her plate. I'm realizing now that mint would be really good, too. Dig in! Melissa and I both thought the leftovers were even better, as the flavors continue to meld in the fridge.
Lentil and Chickpea Salad with Feta and Tahini
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen - Note that all salt amounts are for flaky sea salt, use 1/2 as much for Kosher and even less for table salt.
1 cup dry green lentils (we used French)
3 large cloves garlic, divided
2 fresh sage sprigs
5 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 tsp ground coriander*
3/4 tsp ground cumin*
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
2 tbsp tahini
1 small red onion, thinly sliced in half-moons
1/4 cup roughly chopped herbs (cilantro, parsley, mint), plus more to garnish
1/2 cup feta crumbles
15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
Place the lentils, 2 cloves garlic halved lengthwise, sage, and 2 tbsp olive oil in a small pot with 2 cups cold water. Set over medium heat and let the water come to a simmer (not boiling), then turn the heat to low and cook the lentils in a very gentle simmer just until they are tender. This should take about 25-35 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and let the lentils cool a few minutes before draining them. Pick out and discard the sage and garlic.
Meanwhile, make the salad dressing. Combine the coriander and cumin in a small pan and toast over medium heat, about 3 minutes, until very fragrant. Transfer to a small bowl. Make a paste with the remaining clove of garlic by adding 1/2 - 1 tsp sea salt (depending on how coarse or fine) and a little olive oil and mincing, then pressing and scraping with your knife. You could also use a mortar and pestle. Combine the garlic paste, 1 tsp of the toasted spices, 3 tbsp lemon juice, tahini, and 2 tbsp water. Mix well. Taste and add extra salt or lemon if needed.
Place the onion slices in a medium bowl and break them up with your fingers. Sprinkle in two good pinches of salt, the remaining 1 tbsp lemon juice and 2 tsp olive oil, and the herbs. Toss well, then crumble in the cheese and gently toss again.
Combine the lentils with the drained chickpeas, lemon zest, and 1 tsp sea salt in a large mixing bowl. Pour in the tahini dressing and toss well. Toss the lentil mixture with the onions.
Transfer to a platter or serving bowl. Sprinkle with the remaining toasted spices, sesame seeds, and extra chopped herbs.
*Note: If you want to use whole spices, toast 1 tsp whole cumin seed and 2 tsp whole coriander before grinding.