You can tell that Spring is finally here (apologies to those suffering under the blizzard in southern Ontario) for a whole host of reasons: half of the town have tucked away their leather coats into closets, brighter shades of green and pink and yellow (it's the new orange!) are showing up, the young, nattily-dressed men on the #22 bus into downtown have shaved their heads, and I'm making salad.
I'm very fond of salads, actually. My mother favoured huge leafy salads that she constructed individually right on each dinner plate (and covering at least half the plate, maybe more) in the summer, and cole slaw in the winter. It wasn't until I left home that I encountered things like tabbouleh, rice salads, lentil salads, pasta salads. I took to them rather fiercely.
After my lamby foray into Turkish and middle eastern cuisine this weekend (yesterday I experimented deliciously with baked falafel) I find myself with an interesting assortment of leftovers, which, individually do not constitute a meal, but together, and augmented a tad, will do just fine. Leftover slices of roast lamb with cacik and olives (!) and a few sliced tomatoes, feta and cucumbers can make very satisfactory sandwiches, stuffed into pita bread, as will the falafel. What I really needed to go with it was a salad.
The Shephard's Salad that went with the original lamb dinner was rather fun. Much like a Greek salad in that it consists primarily of chopped tomatoes, cucumber, and green peppers (and even more so since I added some cubed feta) it also featured lettuce (not to be found on any self-respecting Greek salad, thank you very much Eastern Coast!) sliced radishes, and was dressed with a combination of fresh lemon juice, olive oil, fresh sliced mint leaves and the all-important sumac, a woodsy-lemony flavoured spice. It was quite delicious, but having had it two days in a row, I am sort of looking for something else.
Lentil salad it is. There is, as it turns out, a Turkish version of green lentil salad lurking in the pages of The Sultan's Kitchen: a Turkish Cookbook. It is both similar to and quite different from the Ethiopian recipe "Azifa" that I like to make in the summer, being a combination of cooked, chilled green/brown lentils dressed with finely chopped vegetables and a simple vinaigrette. Whereas the African recipe has hot peppers, mustard, and red wine vinegar as its distinctive ingredients, the Turkish version is mellower, featuring more chopped mint, cilantro, sumac, and fresh lemon juice.
Lentil salads keep very well for a couple of days in the fridge, and lend themselves well to packed lunches - whether or not you have refrigeration available. They are also a fantastic source of both protien and vitamin-rich vegetables, and if you have a conservative hand with the olive oil, they can be healthily lean, too. In the summer, they are a favourite accompaniment (second, perhaps only to couscous salad) to grilled lamb burgers. Really, they make a great, easy side dish at any time, and I'm really looking forward to it tonight.