Two-Color Spicy Lentil Salad with Cucumber and Pickled Radish

Freebie alert: I’m giving away a copy of the cookbook mentioned here, The Enlightened Kitchen, over on Just Hungry. Deadline is Sunday, June the 7th!

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Vegetarian Bento May is over, but I still have some bento-friendly vegan recipes to post! This one was inspired by two sources: Sarah’s Curried Lentil Risotto, and a recipe for a lentil and mushroom salad in The Enlightened Kitchen, a great shojin ryori cookbook that I’ve just reviewed over on Just Hungry. The latter recipe uses both green and red lentils to come up with a bi-color effect that is very pretty, and that’s what I wanted to emulate.

The first time I tried making this, I used hard, flinty green Puy lentils, and ran into a problem: they take about twice as long to cook as the red lentils, which are hulled. By the time the Puy lentils were cooked, the red lentils had disintegrated. On my second attempt, I just adjusted the cooking times, putting the Puy lentils in the boiling water first, then adding the red lentils later. That came out quite well. The Puy lentils remain al dente and firm, while the red lentils are quite soft and starchy.

The lentil salad recipe in the Enlightened Kitchen book called for curry powder, which is a standard spice in Japanese kitchens, but I used a mixture of Indian spices instead, which I think makes for more vibrant and exciting flavors. The last of my pickled radishes fit very well too.

This salad keeps fairly well for a couple of days in the refrigerator. I could eat this happily for quite a few meals.

Recipe: Two-Color Spicy Lentil Salad with Cucumber and Pickled Radish

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This makes about 4 full bento-sized servings; each serving is around 250 calories, give or take 10-20 calories.

The main ingredients:

  • 1/2 U.S. cup (120ml) green or Puy lentils
  • 1/2 U.S. cup (120ml) red lentils
  • 1/2 English style cucumber
  • 8-10 Pickled Radishes, or subtitute cornichons or other sour pickle
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • Salt

The spiced oil:

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 tsp. turmeric
  • 2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. hot red chili powder
  • 1 Tbs. kalongi or nigella or black onion seeds
  • 1 Tbs. brown mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

The dressing:

  • 2 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce

Make the spiced oil: Heat up the oil in a frying pan, and add all the spices. Stir around until it smells toasty and wonderful. Take the spiced oil out of the pan and set aside.

Bring a pot of water to the boil. Add the Puy lentils first, and set a timer for 5 minutes. At the 5 minute mark, add the red lentils and set the timer for another 3 to 5 minutes. Cook just until the Puy lentils are al dente (firm to the tooth); by that time the red lentils should be soft. Drain, put into a bowl and mix in the spiced oil.

Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise, and scoop ou the seeds with the tip of a teaspoon. Slice the cucumber thinly, and sprinkle a bit of salt over the slices. Massage the salt and cucumber together with your hands. Put the cucumber slices in a kitchen towel or a couple of layers of paper towel, and squeeze out the excess moisture.

Slice or chop up the drained pickled radishes.

Mix together the dressing ingredients. Chop up the parsley leaves, leaving some for garnish (or use parsley flowers as garnish, as I did here.)

Mix the cucumber and radish into the cooled lentils. Add the dressing and mix with a spoon, taking care not to smush the lentils. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Keeps well in the refrigerator for a few days.

For more bento recipes, ideas and tips, subscribe to Just Bento via your newsreader or by email (more about subscriptions).

And visit our sister site, Just Hungry for great Japanese home recipes and more.

10 comments

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Re: Two-Color Spicy Lentil Salad with Cucumber and Pickled ...

That sounds good, but I usually don't keep red lentils around, just the plain old brown ones. Would those work also?

Re: Two-Color Spicy Lentil Salad with Cucumber and Pickled ...

It won't be as colorful, but any lentils will work. Just be sure to only cook them enough so that they stay firm, not to the mushy stage, or you'll end up with a bowl of mush!

Re: Two-Color Spicy Lentil Salad with Cucumber and Pickled ...

Looks absolutely delicious. What's the pretty flowery garnish?

Re: Two-Color Spicy Lentil Salad with Cucumber and Pickled ...

They're parsley flower buds, from a batch in the garden that's in its 2nd year. They taste like, well, parsley flowers!

Re: Two-Color Spicy Lentil Salad with Cucumber and Pickled ...

I thought this rang a bell! I made the Enlightened Kitchen version years ago, but that trusty book is in storage in my parents' house, so I must try this out once I can get some puy lentils. They're not as much of an expensive luxury as they used to be, to be fair. :)

Re: Two-Color Spicy Lentil Salad with Cucumber and Pickled ...

Dear Maki
There is an article in the "Tagesanzeiger-Das Magazin" about bento. Although it is neither long nor contains any new insight, I just thought I'd send you the link, incase you are interested. The author Max Küng, I assume, is rather japan interested (he once also wrote an article in the "Das Magazin" about onsen). But he often also has a nose for trends about to arise. This might be a futher sign that bentomania is about to take off (Though I'm not really sure I want bentoing to become "trendy").
Greetings from ZH, bee

Re: Two-Color Spicy Lentil Salad with Cucumber and Pickled ...

Hmm, that article was I think 'inspired', to say the least, by a recent one in the Financial Times about the upcoming 501 Bentos book:

http://dasmagazin.ch/index.php/ode-an-bento/ - Tagi article

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/7a7ec45a-40db-11de-8f18-00144feabdc0.html - FT article

A bit sloppy reporting too in the Tagi article...it says the author of 501 Bentos is Amorette Dye, but it's not - it's a compilation of many bento creators' works (mostly familiar bento bloggers).

Re: Two-Color Spicy Lentil Salad with Cucumber and Pickled ...

wow, comparing these two articles is almos freaky. max küng didn't invest much fantasy in that one...

Re: Two-Color Spicy Lentil Salad with Cucumber and Pickled ...

The balsamic vinegar seems like an interesting addition to this dish-I love balsamic so I bet it is a tasty pairing to the spicy dish. I always keep plain yogurt on hand for dishes like this where the spices can get out of hand... plus yogurt is so creamy and good for you it is a nice addition to a meal, too. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

Re: Two-Color Spicy Lentil Salad with Cucumber and Pickled ...

This was an excellent dish. I used the leftovers in Pita Bread with brown rice and lettuce.

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