A few weeks ago, we were invited to our friend-and-neighbor’s 4oth birthday celebration. Said Celebration occurred this past Sunday. Our hosts were providing burgers, dogs and Veggie Burgers (bless you, Overstreets)! They asked everyone to please bring a Side Dish (what goes with waffles?) I emailed back something Rather Vague about making pasta salad or potato salad. Probably like many other Invitees. [And yes, there were a ton of different pasta and potato salads at the party. Most of the pasta salads contained rotini (there were 5 of them in a row--rotini salads as far as the eye could see (if the eye could only see to 5)]
I didn’t give my Side Dish any more thought until I went to the store on Friday to purchase Items to put in my still-murky idea for a pasta salad.
And then, while cruising the aisles at Whole Foods, I saw them. Living in a bulk bin next to some split peas. They were Glorious. I asked them their name and they chorused, “We’re autumn blend lentils. Marvel at our Autumnal Splendor!” And marvel I did. The blend was a mix of orange, yellow, black and brown lentils (they might have other names, but that’s what color they were). They lured me in with the promise of cooler weather and bonfires, and I scooped some up and brought them home with me.
On the pasta aisle, I found some cute little orecchiette–little ears. (As an aside, whenever I would get Carried Away with a story and perhaps Let Fly with a few colorful adjectives–or gerunds–in the presence of my best friend’s kids, she would always say, “Little ears…” Which was her way of Shushing me. I’m a very bad shusher. The best I could manage was to curse sotto voce. And now, those “little ears” are 17 and almost-13, and I’m pretty sure they don’t even count as little ears anymore. They seem to have made it to teenager-dom inspite of Auntie Jen’s Bad Influence). So, I bought the little ears, reaffirming my ability to Curse Under My Breath and rounded out Team Pasta Salad with some fire roasted peppers, some cherry and pear tomatoes, an English cucumber and a Vidalia Onion.
Look how cozy the lentils are, hanging out in their wee pasta ear-boats!
I had never before thought to put lentils in pasta salad. And then chickpeas on top of that? Truly a Carby Delight. But, dang, it was good! All the textures and flavors worked really well together–the chew of the orecchiette, the slight crunch of the wee lentils, the Smooth of the goat cheese and the cold snap of the cucumber–a veritable Pasta Salad Symphony.
As is Often the Case, I didn’t work from a recipe but just threw together Items that I knew (or at least Figured) would work well together, marrying it all together in a Big Love kind of way with a fairly straightforward vinaigrette. Please don’t think of What Follows as a recipe so much as a Pasta Salad Equation: pasta+beans of some sort+veggies+cheese+vinaigrette=salad.
Pasta Salad with Lentils, Chickpeas and Goat Cheese
(all measurements are approximate and Subject to Your Whim. Pretend that “or whatever you like” appears after each ingredient in the list)
- 8 oz. orecchiette
- 3/4 cup lentils
- 1 can chick peas, drained
- a couple of handfuls (handsful?) cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- a couple of handfuls pear tomatoes, cut in half
- 1/2 English cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
- 1 large fire roasted red pepper, peeled and diced
- 1 small-ish Vidalia onion, diced
- about 4 oz goat cheese, crumbled
For the dressing
- 3/4 cup favorite vinegar (I used some rice wine vinegar and some red wine vinegar)
- salt and pepper, to taste
- zest of two lemons
- splash of Worcestershire
- couple of splashes of soy sauce
- squirt of honey
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Cook the pasta to Not Quite al dente.
Cook the lentils until just a bit crunchy (I boiled the pasta and lentils together, starting with the lentils and adding the pasta after about 5 minutes).
Rinse to cool.
Combine all the Chunky Ingredients in a large bowl.
Whisk together all the dressing ingredients. Taste for seasoning, and pour over Team Chunky.
Taste again before serving and adjust as necessary. a handful of chopped herbs would not be Unappreciated at this juncture.
And there you have it. I do hope you give lentils a chance to join in your next pasta salad. They will appreciate being Included, and your taste buds and tummy will appreciate it, too.
Have a great day!