(This post was created in partnership with Lentils.org and their #SpringCleanse campaign. All opinions and writing are my own.)
I am amazed, this spring, by the power of the longer evenings and the unfurling buds everywhere to lift me out of the weight of my first winter in the pacific northwest. Man, that was rough. I did not know how much those short, dark, grey days would impact me, but it was pretty profound. I stumbled through strategies to mitigate it, and got so much good advice from seasoned PNWers, but none of that really diminished the sheer heaviness of such persistently dark days.
Go figure, right? I have lived my entire life in California’s mild winters and there is no way to really prepare for this except to be in it. Though my dad likes to remind me that we lived through some pretty torrential rainy seasons – with 70-90 inches falling some winters – I don’t remember those. Is that because, as a kid, I had the luxury of just reveling in the joy that comes with rain? The huge worms that would emerge, the delight of a clear plastic umbrella that shielded my head but afforded a view, rainy day exploration walks with my preschool? This is all I remember about the rain as a kid in the Santa Cruz mountains.
These longer evenings, though, and our first lovely days of spring sun, are making me downright giddy. In the evenings, I go for long walks and soak up that dusky blue (or grey) light, listening to the birds and the frogs who have emerged from their winter silence to serenade into the night, and taking in the heady blossom perfuming the cool spring air. It is pure magic and it fills me up.
And the arrival of spring’s first delicate new veggies is lifting me up too: the novelty of them, as much as their color. I am slowly getting these strategies in place: the evening walks and the farmers market visits nourish me. I try to get out in the sun, when it’s there to bask in. I am back to do doing yoga. I am listening to my body and not really drinking. I am giddy with the abundance of blossoming trees here – something that is so much less dramatic in San Francisco, where the cherry blossoms come and go in a week, and that is the end of visible spring blooms. Spring has never been so welcome, or so rewarding.
I am a complete nerd for lentils. They are the easiest of the legumes, requiring no long soak and cooking faster than beans. They keep in the pantry for a year, at least, and add so much good heart-loving protein.
Bonus! There’s a Spring Cleanse sweepstakes with bunches of fun stuff including a $2,000 shopping spree grand prize:
Spring Lentil + Quinoa Pilaf
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 stalks green garlic, diced (OR use 1 small onion or 1 leek with 1 garlic clove)
1 cup green lentils
1/2 cup quinoa (tricolor used here!)
4 cups vegetable broth
1 purple daikon
1 watermelon radish
2 or 3 rainbow carrots, peeled
Small handful of asparagus shoots
4 cups baby spring greens (such as sorrel, radish sprouts, young arugula, etc)
1/3 cup coarsely chopped pistachios
Creamy Meyer Lemon Yogurt Dressing
1 garlic clove, pressed or minced
Pinch of salt
Zest and juice of 1 Meyer lemon
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 cup olive oil
In a medium sized pot over medium low heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil, and half of the diced green garlic stalks (or half the onions and garlic). Sauté until soft, about 2-3 minutes. Add the lentils and stir for another minute or so. Add 3 cups of the veggie broth, raise the heat, and cover. Once gently boiling, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the lentils are tender and plump, and the water is absorbed, about 35-40 minutes. If there is any liquid left in the lentils once they are cooked, remove the lid and continue stirring with the heat off.
While the lentils cook, prep the quinoa. In a separate small pot, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and the remaining green garlic or onion. Sauté until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the quinoa and stir for another minute or so. Add the remaining cup of veggie broth, raise the heat, and cover. As soon as the quinoa reaches a gentle boil, reduce heat to low and continue to simmer until the quinoa is cooked through, about 15-18 minutes.
While the lentils and quinoa are simmering, prep the veggies and the dressing. Using a mandoline, carefully slice the veggies into thin discs. Start with the daikon and radish, then slice the coins into quarters. Toss them into a large mixing bowl. Follow with the carrots (but don’t quarter them), and finish with the tender asparagus. If you don’t have a mandoline or benriner, you can also use a vegetable peeler to shave the veggies lengthwise into long, delicate tendrils. If you have none of these, or would prefer a simpler method, you can also simply thinly slice by hand.
In a small mixing bowl, combine the garlic, a generous pinch of salt, the zest and juice of the Meyer lemon, and the vinegar. Whisk with a fork to mellow the garlic’s bite. Add the Greek yogurt and honey slowly whisk in the olive oil, stirring vigorously until the dressing is thoroughly combined and creamy. Season to taste with more salt if desired.
Mix the lentils and the quinoa together and transfer to a serving dish.
Add the 4 cups of spring greens to the mixing bowl with the veggies. Drizzle the dressing over; you may have some leftover. It also tastes great mixed in directly with the lentils.
To serve, add a pile of the spring vegetables to a serving of the lentils and quinoa. Finish with a sprinkle of pistachios.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Lentils.org. The opinions and text are all mine.