This combination of flavors and textures popped into my head one day when I was thinking of a way to make a lentil salad but also wanting to use Dill. For years, I've enjoyed cold lentils with a squeeze of lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. Just the way my Uncle Gerardo made it for family when we journeyed to Spain to visit my sister.
It's scientifically proven that scent builds strong pathways to memories. I argue food is the second strongest. Food sets the mood. The smells. The experience. The previously mentioned cold lentil salad made its way into my cooking repertoire, not because it was super fancy, but because it was super simple and tasty. And because of the strong correlation I had between it and some very relaxing and fun moments in Spain. I wanted something to brighten the recipe, make it a little more fancy with unique flavors and this was born. This salad is a wonderful combination of both taste - tart, savory, herby bright, nutty and texture - crunchy walnuts, popping cranberries and soft and chewy lentils.
And I thought it's either going to be really good or really weird.
But I liked it. My neighbor liked it. My sister enjoyed it. Just like the sweet potato fennel soup, she even called asking for the recipe and made it twice within the following week.
Dill is a bright and flavorful herb. It's normally seen baked on fish, stirred into cold potato salad (I guess lentil salad doesn't seem as strange now), and used as pickle seasoning. This herb helps to relieve gas, lack of appetite, and headaches. In Ancient Greece, athletes made an infused oil with dill and rubbed it all over their body to help tone muscles. Quite intriguing, indeed.
Although I'm not going to tell you to rub dill all over your body like some Ancient Greek athletes, I will encourage you to make this salad. Fresh dill is imperative to the salad's flavor. It's tasty with dried dill but FRESH is where the Wow factor steps in. Also leave the fresh cranberries whole. They will soften in the pan a bit and then pop in your mouth when consumed.
For a non-vegetarian side dish add cooked and crumbled breakfast sausage. Otherwise the recipe is vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free and can be nut-free if walnuts are omitted.
Cranberry Lentil Salad with Dill & Toasted Walnuts
1 cup lentils, small green
1 cup shredded frozen carrots *
1 1/2 cup fresh cranberries, whole
1/4 cup dried cranberries, chopped
bunch of fresh dill
1 cup toasted walnuts**
2 cups broth, sodium free (or use water and add Rapunzel vegetable bouillon with herbs to pot after lentils are cooked)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Lemon, for serving
1. Soak lentils in hot water for at least four hours (or overnight).
2. Add lentils, frozen grated carrot, and water (or broth if using) to pot. Boil then simmer for 20 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, chop dried cranberries, fresh dill, and toasted walnuts.
4. Once lentils are cooked, add bouillon (if using instead of liquid broth), whole fresh cranberries, and dried cranberries. Cover and let sit on medium-low heat for 3-5 minutes. This is will soften cranberries (which will pop in your mouth!).
5. Plate 3-4 servings. Add toasted walnuts, fresh dill, and a drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice.
Serve hot or cold! And more importantly - Enjoy!
*If using freshly grated, add to pot halfway into cooking.
*Toast walnuts in a pan on medium-low heat, stirring every minute for 4-6 minutes. Remove pan and let cool.