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COOKING LOCAL Lentil and Grilled Asparagus Salad

April 15, 2011

Mediterranean quinoa and Lentil Salad with grilled asparagus
We’ll need:
•    1 cup lentilles du Puy* (French green lentils) or brown lentils
•    3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
•    2 cups water
•    1 cup quinoa (can substitute cous cous)
•    1/2 teaspoons salt
•    1/4 cup olive oil (preferably extra-virgin)
•    1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
•    1 large garlic clove, minced and mashed to a paste with 1/4 teaspoon salt
•    1 carrot, cut into small pieces
•    1 medium onion, peeled and sliced into ½ inch semi-circles
•    1 pound fresh asparagus, woody ends snapped off (plus a little more olive oil and some balsamc vinegar)
•    1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint leaves, plus same amount of chopped fresh parsley leaves
•    1 bunch arugula, stems discarded and leaves washed well, spun dry, and chopped
•    2 cups vine-ripened cherry tomatoes, halved
•    1/4 pound feta, crumbled (about 1 cup)
Preparation
We’ll start by cooking the lentils. In a small saucepan simmer lentils and chopped carrot pieces in water to cover by 2 inches until tender but not falling apart, 15 to 20 minutes, and drain well. Transfer hot lentils to a bowl and stir in 1 tablespoon vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Cool lentils completely (at least to room temperature), stirring occasionally.
In a saucepan bring 2 cups water to a boil and add quinoa and salt. Cook on low for 20 minutes until tender. Fluff the grains with a fork and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in 1 tablespoon olive oil and cool completely, stirring occasionally.
Now let’s grill the asparagus and onions. Sprinkle the stalks (and remember we’ve already snapped off the last woody inch or so) and the onion half circles with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add just a little bit of salt and fresh pepper and grill over a medium heat for about 5-6 minutes, turning once. I like to use a big pair of tongs to flip the asparagus, but you can use a basket or put them on skewers, whatever works for you. Of course, you could also bake the asparagus and onions in the oven. I think the grill will taste a bit better, but however you get them roasted and glazed is fine. Let the asparagus and onions cool a bit, then chop into bite sized pieces.
Now, let’s make a dressing. In a small bowl whisk together garlic paste, which we make by crushing the garlic into a bit of salt with the back of a wooden spoon, plus the remaining 2 tablespoons vinegar, a dash of Dijon mustard, the remaining 3 tablespoons oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir lentils and carrots, plus the roasted asparagus and onions, and the dressing into the quinoa. Chill salad, covered, at least 1 hour and up to 24.
Just before serving, stir in remaining ingredients like the chopped arugula, mint, and parsley, tomatoes and feta cheese. Season with salt and pepper if needed. If it needs a bit more tang I sometimes squeeze a little lemon juice on top.