When you hear the phrase “Summer Food”, what does it make you think of? Smokey, char-grilled bites hot off the grill or fresh, light, and crisp salads?
This salad is light enough for a poolside hangout, picnic, or potluck but hearty enough to fill you up so can keep on keepin’ on with your fun summer activities (because who wants to keep pulling themselves out of the cool water to refuel? No thanks!).
Like most salads, the heart and soul of this one is the dressing. Made with mangos, dates, green onion, garlic, lime, and chili powder, it’s a lovely combo of sweet, savory, spicy, and just a touch of smoke (from the chili powder). You can leave the chili powder out if you’re sensitive to spice but we highly recommend that you leave it in, even if you just use a very mild chili powder. Also, if you’re not using a high-speed blender such as a Vitamix, we recommend soaking the dates for 10-15 minutes prior to blending.
Making the dressing couldn’t be easier; just throw all the ingredients in the blender, whiz them together, and you’re done. You can use either fresh or frozen mangos or a combo like we did.
We use the frozen mangos in the blender because it saves time and they also help chill the dressing down as it’s being made. Then we use the fresh chopped mangos in the lentil salad to let their sweet, fruity flavor come through more. Yum!
Do you know the easiest way to peel a mango? Use the edge of a glass to separate the flesh from the skin to keep the peeled surface smooth and pretty. Works like a charm!
Speaking of the lentils, we’ve seen a lot of comments from people confused about how to properly cook lentils. What’s the right water-to-lentils ratio? How long do you cook them? Let’s go ahead and clear this up for good.
Cook them just like pasta!
That’s right. Simply bring a large pot of water to a boil, dump the lentils in and let them cook for about 17 minutes (or until tender). Strain them, rinse them, and chill them for the salad. They’re perfect every time. Make a large batch and eat them throughout the week; they’re delicious and full of iron, folate, and protein (among other benefits).
For the salad itself, measure out 2 cups of those perfectly cooked lentils, add chopped red onion, cilantro, and fresh mango. Then, add as much dressing as you want. This recipe makes a good-sized batch of the dressing. You’ll have some leftover to use throughout the week or even freeze to have on hand when you want to make this salad again (which you definitely will!).
If you did nothing else, you’d have a great salad; you could eat it by itself or put it on top of a bed of greens. But you know how we roll... we had to take it a step further and grill some zucchini boats on our panini press (only because we don’t have an actual grill lol).
Dillon is always finding new ways to use a melon baller. He’ll use that little tool for everything… except melons! He cut the zucchinis in half for this recipe and used it to carve out the seeds to create a little boat for the lentil salad to go in. Genius!
When grilling the zucchini, it’s ok if the zucchini is a little underdone. The more it cooks and releases its water, the more flat (and eventually mushy) it gets. The important thing is to get some decent grill marks on it for presentation and a touch of char flavor. If it’s not completely cooked on the inside it’ll only add to the freshness of the finished dish.
Once you have some nice markage happening, take it off the grill (gently) and fill the boats with the lentil mix. Garnish with some smoked paprika, black pepper, and chopped green onion for a better-than-restaurant-quality salad.
We think this salad tastes like pure summertime. If we could literally put summer on a plate, it would taste like this Lentil Mango Salad. It’s sweet and light while also being savory and hearty enough to satisfy big appetites. We hope you’ll try it and let us know what you think!
Enjoy the summer and stay cool out there!
Til next time,