Green Lentil and Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Cilantro and Blue Cheese

Depending on where you’re reading this from, you may or may not know that Canada is in the midst of a massive recall of Alberta beef due to high E. coli levels. My first reaction upon hearing about the recall was to feel renewed smugness confidence in my decision (going on 20 years) to not eat meat. I mean, in light of everything you hear about people getting sick from consuming meat, it makes you wonder why anyone wouldn’t convert to vegetarianism. But while it’s tempting to write off E. Coli as a meat eater’s problem and continue to scarf veggie burgers with impunity, this distorts the matter. Because like it or not, it’s very possible for foods other than animal products – yes, I’m talking about our saintly vegetables! – to be contaminated with E. Coli as well. I found a good fact sheet on E. coli and how it affects different foods here.

While the E. coli problem has a lot to do with how meat and vegetables are handled and cooked by consumers, the real issue – and one of the main reasons I became vegetarian to begin with – appears to stem from the scale on which meat is processed. In other words, too few meat processing plants processing are processing too much meat. With such a system in place, it’s little surprise that E. coli outbreaks aren’t detected quickly enough, and people get sick. This is definitely reason enough for meat eaters to boycott factory-farmed meat in favour of supporting smaller-scale operations, or even better, move toward a more plant-base diet. It’s a long shot – especially in light of the fact that a huge chunk of Alberta’s economy (and culture ) is rooted in the meat industry – but ideally there will be less need for large-scale meat processing if fewer people want to consume animal products. And with fewer large-scale operations, the threat to consumers – carnivorous and vegetarian alike – will hopefully be reduced. I’m probably preaching to the choir, but after hearing about the recall for weeks straight I needed to vent a little! Whew!

On a completely different note, there’s a storm a-brewin’ here in Lake Country! Gusts of wind are causing the RV to rock back and forth in an unnerving manner, and I’ve already had to run outside twice in my leopard-print housecoat and Birkenstocks (NOT a good look, FYI) to chase items that had blown out of the recycling box, surely inducing shock and alarm in any and all elderly neighbours who happened to be peering out their window at the time. Amidst all this chaos (and in spite of the fact I have a cold and didn’t sleep a wink last night… ugh!), I somehow summoned the will to whip up this salad for lunch. There are few vegetables capable of a more dramatic metamorphosis than cauliflower, right? Raw it’s the stuff of store-bought veggie platters (the ones that come with a packet of bottled Ranch dressing… I think I have a personal vendetta against bottled Ranch dressing) often spotted at potlucks and kids’ birthday parties, but steamed, sauteed and especially roasted it takes on an entirely new and tastier life! Such is the case with this salad, where caramelized roasted cauliflower combines deliciously with earthy lentils, fresh cilantro, a whisper of blue cheese and a subtle dijon-honey dressing. Serve the salad warm as soon as it’s ready, or chilled the next day!

Recipe: Green Lentil and Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Cilantro and Blue Cheese

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup green lentils, uncooked
  • 1 medium head of cauliflower, cut into small florets (approximately 3 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, stemmed and chopped
  • 1/4 cup blue cheese, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

Dijon-Honey Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

Cook green lentils until tender but still firm. If you’re new to the universe of dried lentils, there’s an nice tutorial on how to cook them here. Once lentils are cooked and drained, place in a large salad bowl and add salt to taste. Set aside.

Prepare cauliflower: Preheat oven t0 400F. Place cauliflower florets in a single layer in a large baking dish and toss with cumin and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper, and place in oven for 20 minutes or until tender and caramelized, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven and place in bowl with cooked lentils. Add chopped cilantro and crumbled blue cheese. Gently fold all ingredients together.

Prepare dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup olive oil, red wine vinegar, dijon mustard and honey. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Drizzle dressing onto ingredients in salad bowl and gently toss to combine. Serve and eat!

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