I like to think of myself as a regular Sandra Lee, capitalizing on the availability of pre-made ingredients in order to whip up incredibly easy and quick semi-homemade meals. Trust me, if I had the time — or the kitchen — to do it, I’d spend all day cooking up a storm made from scratch. But at the end of the day, I don’t, and thanks to modern day society, I am able to acquire a number of valuable ingredients at most local supermarkets that make my life that much easier.
Cooking homemade meals is incredibly important to me, and I aim to do it most days of the week. And while I’m in no way a butter, oil or bacon-phobe, I do prefer to keep it natural, clean and organic when in the confines of my kitchen in order to counteract the effects of an indulgent New York City life.
The lentil and beet salad I put together last week isn’t just for the health-conscious, green eater; it’s for the runner too. Best of all, it’s vegan, and can be served on its own with a fresh side of greens or, when hosting carnivorous guests, as a side-dish to a meatier meal.
This is exactly the type of meal that I aim to eat the night before a race or any long run. But remember, as with most of my recipes, feel free to substitute ingredients and add your own. I rarely work from a cookbook since I love the freedom to experiment with spices, veggies and, every now and then, exotic flavors. After all, what’s the worst that happens? There’s a pizza store and Starbucks on every corner just outside my apartment doors.
What you need:
1/2 vidalia onion
1 package pre-cooked lentils
1 package pre-roasted beets
1 orange pepper
1/4 red pepper
1 large tomato
1/4 can chickpeas
3-5 fresh basil leaves
Extra virgin olive oil
Red wine vinegar
1 spoonful Dijon mustard
What to do:
1. Before anything, remove your lentils and beets from their packaging. Be careful not to wear anything white or expensive when dealing with beets, and work by the sink; the magenta dye gets absolutely everywhere.
2. Once you’ve freed your lentils and beets from their plastic packaging, toss the lentils in a large bowl and mix in 1/4 of a can of chickpeas. Rinse the chickpeas first to remove any excess salt.
3. On a chopping board, begin preparing your vegetables, including the beets. For mine, I used vidalia onions, red and orange peppers, and tomatoes; feel free to choose your favorites for your own salad. Once sliced, toss them into the bowl with your lentils and chickpeas.
4. Give your base mixture a good stir, and then begin preparing the dressing. For this, you want to create a nice, even coating of olive oil and vinegar without creating a massive pool of liquid at the bottom of the bowl. Start with less; you can always add more.
I typically begin with the extra virgin olive oil, then add a generous amount of balsamic vinegar (Rao’s is my favorite; pricy, but worth every penny) and a splash of red wine vinegar. Toss in a spoonful of Dijon mustard, and then squeeze the whole lemon into the mix. Stir it all together, and then go to salt and pepper town.
5. See those little green flecks above? That’s fresh basil. If you don’t have any sitting on your window sill a la me, you can pick this up from any local grocer. You don’t need a ton; a few leaves chopped in can go a very long way. The basil isn’t totally necessary, but I personally love it with everything. It makes my meals taste like summer.
(Bonus points if you’re wearing glittery nail polish.)
6. Finally, place your salad in the refrigerator to get nice and cold. To serve, place a few spoonfuls alongside some fresh lettuce (I love arugula), sliced tomatoes and avocado.
- What ingredients would you remove or add to this salad?
- Any ideas of interesting spices that could, well, spice it up?
- Do you keep vegetarian or vegan before a race?