Soak Up the Love / Sumptuous Summer Salad + Kale and Lentils
I can hardly believe summer is already in full swing. It's been a while since I've posted—my new job, new and old friends, gorgeous weather and time with family have been taking me out of the kitchen on a very frequent basis.
There's no place more beautiful than the greater Seattle area in the summer, and this year has been no exception: Cool mornings that gradually turn up the heat until you're sweating by late afternoon, only to melt blissfully into comfortable, crisp weather by evening. Light that lasts until 10 or 11 p.m. (which is lovely on the weekends, but wreaking havoc on my weekday schedule). Everyone is smiling, happy, out and about around town. The little air conditioner is working overtime in my studio apartment. We're eating cool salads, vibrant vegetables and fresh greens, sharing quality time on the patio over crisp glasses of rose—that's what summer in the Northwest is all about.
And best of all, I'm soaking up the love this summer. My life is so much more rich and full and vibrant and amazing than it's ever been. Sure, there's still the requisite amount of stress and drama, and there are sad days, but those days are ever fewer. Big picture, I'm healthier than ever; this is all a process, and the tough days are part of the cycle of healing. Step by step, I'm learning new patterns and forging new paths. I now know and truly understand and actually kind of even love myself in a newly deep and profound way. I feel more in touch with the Universe and spirituality and whatever the hell it is that connects all of us than I ever was. I know that the best is yet to come, and the present is pretty damn good, too. I know that everything that is meant to come to me is coming soon. I just have to keep doing the next right thing, try my best, pick myself up when I fall, think positively, put that good energy out there and soak up the good vibes I'm getting back.
Onward and upward—that's the mantra.
And, of course, through it all, there is food.
I've mostly been going off other peoples' recipes lately, with my limited in-home hours, but I whipped this up one night after a visit to the Redmond farmer's market, as summer was just beginning. Crisp asparagus, cherry tomatoes, radishes and lots of fresh dill give it a sunny brightness; the fennel and mustard-shallot vinaigrette add depth, richness and almost meatiness; and the lentils and egg pack a protein punch. And kale, because it makes everything better.
This dish has an incredible flavor that you'll want to taste again and again; it's a truly sumptuous summer feast. And, OK, it's largely based off this roasted potato and lentil salad from one of my favorite blogs, The First Mess. But hey, there's enough love to go around for all of us, right? Right.
Sumptuous Summer Salad + Kale and Lentils
1 fennel bulb, sliced into thin rounds
1 small bunch spring onions, white parts sliced into thin rounds, green parts chopped into 1-2” pieces
½ bunch of asparagus, hard ends snapped off and chopped into 2-3” pieces
Large handful cherry tomatoes, halved
½ bunch radishes, very thinly sliced
2-3 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
⅓ - ¾ bunch kale, stemmed, chopped and massaged with a splash of olive oil until soft
½ cup French or Puy lentils
Crumbled feta cheese, optional
Poached eggs, optional
Mustard Vinaigrette (Adapted from The First Mess)
1 medium shallot, minced
2 tsp grainy or Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 ½ Tbsp sherry vinegar
5 Tbsp olive oil
Sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 450º. Make the dressing and prep the vegetables, herbs and greens in the meantime. To make the dressing, whisk all the ingredients together until emulsified.
Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil over medium-high heat, add the lentils, and cook for 16-20 minutes, until tender. Drain, toss with a little dressing to coat in a large bowl, and set aside. While the water is boiling, toss the fennel, onions and cherry tomatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper to coat and roast for 15-20 mins, stirring occasionally.
Check the vegetables and remove any that are tender and lightly browned, then add the asparagus, also tossed lightly with olive oil, salt and pepper, to the pan and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes, until stalks are tender and the ends are beginning to crisp.
Meanwhile, poach the egg, if using, by cracking each egg into a separate ramekin or small bowl, bringing a small saucepan of water and 1 Tbsp white vinegar to a gentle simmer, slipping the eggs carefully into the water and cooking for 6 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon.
When everything is ready, add all the vegetables and kale to the bowl with the lentils, sprinkle with most of the dill and toss with as much of the remaining vinaigrette as you prefer. Add additional salt and pepper to taste if needed. Serve into bowls, top with eggs and/or feta if using, and sprinkle with the remaining dill. Enjoy warm or cold—it’s arguably even better right out of the fridge the next day!
Serves 2 generously or 3 more conservatively.