Summer Lentil Salad

Summer is looming on the horizon and it's time to think about some refreshing salads. There are the typical and traditional potato and cole slaw salads and pasta salads were the rage for a while, too, but I've grown quite tired of them. You need something new to spice up the picnic table and one of my favorites is a Summer Lentil Salad.

This salad makes a high-protein meal with no meat. Lentils are small, flat seeds that are either red or brown and look like little buttons. They do not need to soak which saves enormous time and only take about 20-30 minutes to cook.They make a nutritious base for casseroles, soups and hot or cold salads. For an entrée salad, you'll need:

3/4 cup                   lentils, rinsed and picked clean
1 ea.                     small onion stuck with a clove
1 ea.                     bay leaf
dash                      salt
2 cups                    water
2 ea.                     medium tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup                   green onions, chopped
1/3 cup                   parsley, chopped
3 TB                      olive oil
2 tsp                     fresh lemon juice
2 tsp                     balsamic vinegar
to taste                  fresh ground pepper

Put the lentils in a pan with the onion, bay leaf, salt and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer, cover and let cook about 20-30 minutes until the lentils are tender. Remove the onion and discard. Let it cool, then add your tomatoes, green onions and parsley. Combine the remaining ingredients and whisk to make a dressing and pour over. Mix well. Let the flavors mingle for about an hour in the fridge. Serve over a bed of lettuce.

This is best enjoyed on one of those hot, humid Michigan days. It doesn't set so heavy as a meat course--just perfect for summer fare. You'll hear wine buffs say no wine is to be served with a course containing vinegar--that they'll clash. But it's not really a problem when there is such a small amount like in this dish. A nice cold, dry white wine would be accompany it well. The Australians have been perfecting their blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon grapes and their Black Marlin tastes great. And as always, a good cook appreciates nature and what it has to offer.