Hurry Up Vegan: Brown Lentil, Cucumber, and Mint Salad

by Gena on March 25, 2012

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Hope you all had wonderful weekends! DC turned cold and drizzly just in time for Saturday, but that allowed for some productivity at least.

The last time I was in New York, my mother announced to me that she doesn’t like lentils. I was almost personally insulted: I love lentils. Love, love, love them. This is not so surprising—I love nearly all legumes—but my adoration of lentils is rather unique. They’re faster cooking than chickpeas or black beans, they’re fantastic sources of iron and protein, and they’re one of the most heart-healthy foods you can eat. Not only is the high fiber content in lentils excellent for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, but they also contain high levels of folate, which may have a protective effect against heart disease. They’re also very filling, and some people who have a hard time digesting beans find lentils to be slightly less…challenging.

This is one of those magical, four or five-ingredient recipes that is shockingly tasty for how little work it takes. The flavors—cooling cucumber and mint, and tangy, tart balsamic vinegar—are vibrant enough to stand on their own.

And needless to say, when a recipe is this minimalist, it takes very little time to prepare. Aside from cooking the lentils the night before, this recipe took me all of five minutes to prepare. And had I not forced myself to savor each bite, it could easily have taken me less time to devour it!

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Brown Lentil, Cucumber, and Mint Salad (vegan, gluten free, soy free)

Serves 2 generously

3/4 cup brown lentils
1 2/3 cups cold water
1/3 cup cucumber, cut in half lengthwise and then sliced paper thin
1/4 cup chopped mint
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp sea salt
Dash pepper

1) Rinse lentils under cold water and drain. Place in a saucepan with 2 cups water. Bring to boil over medium heat, and reduce simmer. Cook until tender–this could take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, depending on how old and/or dry the lentils are. Watch for all the water to be absorbed and the lentils to be very tender. Alternately, used canned, organic lentils! No shame there, and even faster.

2) Transfer beans to a mixing bowl and cool till room temperature. Add the cucumber, mint, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Mix, and serve!

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Simple, fresh, nutrient-dense, and satisfying.

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I’d serve this dish over a large plate of greens, topped with avocado slices, chopped walnuts, nutritional yeast, hemp seeds, or cashew cheese for a quick, easy lunch. You could also stuff it into a wrap along with arugula and avocado, or mix it with a cup of whole grains for a more filling meal!

Before I sign off, I’m afraid I need to end this post on a serious note. Did you all see this article about horse racing in New Mexico in the New York Times over the weekend? It’s legitimately horrifying, and worth reading.

I bring up the article not only because it’s urgent and bravely reported, but also as a way of commenting upon my own consciousness of animals and how they’re treated. Saratoga Springs is one of my favorite places; every summer, I used to sit under the stars at SPAC and listen to music with Chloe. I loved wandering around and checking out local cafes, and always fantasized about the day when I’d have the funds to come back and stay at one of the fancy spas.

Of course, the thing Saratoga is most famous for is its horse racing. Though that never held any appeal to me, I also can’t claim that I gave the city’s major tourist attraction any thought. In all the years I visited, it never occurred to me that horse racing might be exploitative or cruel. That eating meat might be cruel had certainly crossed my mind—I flirted with vegetarianism at that point, though I didn’t yet have the courage to take the vegan plunge—but I didn’t consider other forms of animal exploitation: horse racing, horse-drawn carriages, rodeos, and so on.

Today, I understand that animal cruelty goes far beyond leather, fur, dairy, and meat. It includes circuses, rodeos, marine parks, puppy mills, and—believe it or not—a good many petting zoos. As you all explore compassionate journeys, I encourage you to research the kinds of abuse that dominate these industries, which are kept alive by our own ignorant amusement. Animal lives hang in the balance, and we all have the power to spread awareness.

OK. That’s some food for thought—but as an upbeat counterpoint, the season premiere of Mad Men is right on the horizon. Enjoy it, or your evening plans outside of it!

xo

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Averie @ Averie Cooks March 25, 2012 at 11:05 pm

Great looking lentil bowl. Love the overhead/opening shot…so pretty!

I just started a healthy vegan chips giveaway for lentil-based chips that taste nothing like lentils. Lol. But it makes me want to make lentils soon and then I see your great looking bowl!

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Emma March 25, 2012 at 11:14 pm

I’m looking for quick nutritious meals so this looks perfect! I look forward to trying it :)

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Ela March 26, 2012 at 12:07 am

This sounds so good–cucumber and mint are made for each other and lentils are just awesome. I’ve been thinking about making some, I have a mint plant in the house and I have a cucumber coming in my CSA box.
Yay!

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Rebecca March 26, 2012 at 1:18 am

Mmmmm this looks fresh and light and delicious – a perfect spring meal! Just stocked up on mint at the paris market this weekend – your recipe came just in time! Any tips for making the lentils more digestible for those of us with legume-unfriendly digestive systems? Merci, chef ! :)

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Gena March 26, 2012 at 8:29 am

Doing a long soak before you cook them, cooking them with Kombu, and taking beanzyme should all do the trick! Beanzyme is the vegan version of Beano, which, if you are not a strict vegan, is also quite good.

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Ellani March 26, 2012 at 3:20 am

I second Rebeccas’s request. I adore lentils, but have the toughest time digesting them (chickpeas, oddly enough are easy for me…luckily enough, I adore them too!). I find I must consume lentils on the day they are made, otherwise bad news. Forget lentils from a can.

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Gena March 26, 2012 at 8:30 am

Ellani, see the above!

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Hannah March 26, 2012 at 3:57 am

I’ll definitely be making this soon! My current super-super-super lazy dinner when I’m too anxious after work to think straight is to rinse a can (I know, I know…) of lentils, mix it with ungodly amounts of nutritional yeast, dulse, hot sauce, and hemp seeds, and eat the whole thing over a salad with raw broccoli. Yay lentils!

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Karen March 26, 2012 at 7:57 am

I love lentils! And, I am over the moon excited for another season of Mad Men!!

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Gena March 26, 2012 at 8:28 am

What did you think of the premiere? I must admit, I found my attention faltering a little. But I was also pausing it periodically to do problems, so that’s not an ideal way to view anything…

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Karen March 26, 2012 at 5:09 pm

Yeah, I have to agree – the premiere didn’t quite live up to my expectations esp. in view of the critics’ raves. It was a little slow and drama free. My guess is that after such a long absence, some groundwork needs to be laid for Don’s current middle age crisis. So, I’m still hopeful…

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Dreena Burton March 26, 2012 at 8:38 am

I don’t understand how people don’t like lentils either!! When folks mention that to me, I just don’t get it! Especially because the red are so different from the green/brown, and there’s so much you can do with them – and like you said they are so nutritious! Plus, they often are more digestible for people than other beans. Anyhow! *I* would love that salad! The picture is lovely, and the combo of flavors seems bright and refreshing. Lentil lovers unite! :)

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Ellen (Gluten Free Diva) March 26, 2012 at 9:20 am

..and for those looking for that sort of meaty texture, you can’t beat lentils. I like cooking them from scratch, but will admit that sometimes I get the precooked vacuum packed lentils from Trader Joe’s and they work really well in every recipe I use them for. Thanks for sharing. This salad looks so delicious and refreshing! And so totally gluten free!!

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Carrie March 26, 2012 at 9:24 am

Yum! This looks great – especially for summer!

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Tessa @ Amazing Asset March 26, 2012 at 9:44 am

I just found your blog and am thrilled I did! Although I don’t eat raw all of the time, I do implement recipes and foods into my life on a somewhat regular basis…this would be a wonderful addition :)

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Natalie March 26, 2012 at 11:10 am

I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and absolutely love your quick, simple dishes. Lentils are great because they’re so so easy to prepare. This looks like a great weeknight dinner I’ll be sure to try out!

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L. March 26, 2012 at 11:50 am

Love the recipe to make for someone else…but I can’t do lentils, let alone beans…the last time I ate lentils was the last time I went to the emergency room…I couldn’t digest them and my body ended up rejecting everything I put in me, even water, so I had to go to the ER for dehydration….it was awful…….. Beans for some reason really irritate my ulcerative proctitis and ever since I stopped eating them I’ve been healing. It’s hard for me to believe they’re actually an optimal food when they’re so hard to digest even for a healthy GI tract, although I know they’re better than say, meat. I get most of my protein from soy milk or fermented soy products or green juices as a vegan/borderline raw foodist…also a little chia here and there. I’d love to try this with quinoa and zucchini as my replacement beans :) Loving your site.

I heard about even those city horse and buggies being pretty neglectful/abusive to horses….. :( You’ve really got to be careful and aware of what you’re supporting when you do things like that.

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Christine (The Raw Project) March 26, 2012 at 12:18 pm

I adore lentils too and this recipe looks fabulous for summer, thanks!

Just horrifying on the article! I’ve never been a horse racing fan either and this is very infuriating!

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allpointswhole March 26, 2012 at 12:49 pm

I totally agree with all of that including zoos. Since I was young, I have always felt they were wrong.

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Jami March 26, 2012 at 12:57 pm

This post was a little bit of an emotional roller coaster! I HAVE to make this lentil dish for my family! My little brother says he is an “old fashioned, meat-eating American” (GAG–btw he’s 20…) and I made French lentil soup (followed by a cauliflower and cashew curry) for him the other night and he was literally shocked at how filling and yummy it was! I’ll keep this up my sleeve for summer :)
On to the second half of your post – thank you so much for sharing!! I love when you discuss about animal rights outside of the kitchen! Side note: Saratoga is also famous for its racing people! They’re consistently the best cross country and track runners in the country. They should really stick to that.

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Anastasia@healthymamainfo.com March 26, 2012 at 4:27 pm

Loooove lentils! Sounds delish!

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Jen March 26, 2012 at 6:58 pm

Those lentils look delicious! And thank you for posting the horse racing article; it is truly sickening.

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Amanda @ Rewild Your Life March 26, 2012 at 7:07 pm

just made this :) so yummy! and now I have leftovers for a quick lunch tomorrow

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Stacy S March 26, 2012 at 8:44 pm

This would also work great with raw, sprouted lentils. I find that sprouted lentils are an easily digested raw legume if you can tolerate cooked lentils you can probably enjoy this dish totally raw with sprouted lentils! Yum. Bring on Spring.

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Dawn April 16, 2013 at 9:07 pm

I made this with raw, sprouted lentils for dinner tonite. It was very, very good! I added avocado and piled everything on a big ol’ pile of arugula. Yum!

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Nada (One Arab Vegan) March 27, 2012 at 7:18 am

This sounds delicious, love the addition of mint. I’m pretty sure I’ve made some variation of it before, complete with greens, avocados and walnuts! Our palates are eerily similar :)

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Ela April 15, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Just made a post in which I shared a version I made of this including a special prep technique for the lentils!
http://ulteriorharmony.blogspot.com/2012/04/styling-and-two-more-recipe-reviews.html

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