Greetings from snowy, snowy Massachusetts. While I hear that very little in the way of snow is hitting the ground at home in New York, here in Gloucester, MA, the latest winter storm to assault the Northeast is alive and kicking. Hard.
I’ve been here in my hometown, visiting my mother for a few days while she recuperates from a broken ankle (#snowmaggedon2015 strikes again!), and apparently the universe wants me to stay a few more days. Because I’m a hearty New Englander and all, but there’s no way no how that I can drive home in this.
Mom recently moved into a new place right on the water in downtown Gloucester, and if you’ve never experienced a fierce New England winter storm on the ocean, let me tell you: it’s wild. The wind howls, the snow blows in every direction (except straight down), and the white stuff piles in drifts that they move with a backhoe, not a snow plow. The gorgeous view of the lighthouse and the old Paint Manufactory disappears in favor of a grey-white mist of blowing snow, foggy cloud, angry sea, and bedraggled seagulls.
We are hunkered down against the storm, however: a toasty fireplace, plenty of popcorn, cocoa & Netflix. And, to fuel those marathon shoveling sessions (or marathon sitting-on-the-couch-icing-her-ankle sessions in Mom’s case): roasted cauliflower, lentil and rice salad.
I’ve been making this one for a few weeks now, and it hits all the right notes: rich, umami flavor from the roasted cauliflower, liberally doused in olive oil & smoked paprika; earthy green lentils with a nicely al dente texture; colorful slivers of bitter orange or lemon peel; crunchy toasted pistachios; hints of sweet, chewy cranberries; and bright, grassy cilantro & mint, all tied together with a tangy, acidic lemon dressing.
This salad is nicely adaptable to a variety of cauliflower (I use white here, but often use green, as that is what they have at the farmer’s market this winter), rice (I like a mix of wild & short-grain brown the best), nuts (I love the pistachios for a hint of yellow-green, but pine nuts are also great, and chopped walnuts add a nice bitter note), citrus (make sure you choose a thin-skinned variety, else the peels will not soften in the cauliflower roasting time), dried fruit (raisins, chopped dried apricots, even papaya and mango would work, I think) and herbs.
While it is a bit time-consuming to put together, it makes a huge batch, perfect for those impromptu snow day movie marathons with friends, or you can tuck some away for lunches or a mid-week on-the-go dinner. Or a post-shoveling snack: I think we’re going to need a lot of those. Stay warm, my Northesast peeps!
Adapted from Cauliflower, rice & lentil salad at BBC Good Food
- one medium head cauliflower (about 2 lbs), broken into small florets
- 1 medium tangerine or Meyer lemon, halved, seeded and thinly sliced (peel on)
- olive oil
- salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- 1 cup green Puy lentils
- 1 cup rice, preferably wild, brown or a medley
- 3 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 1 cup shelled pistachios, toasted
- large handful of fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
- juice + zest of 2 lemons
- fruity olive oil (about ½ cup)
- a handful of fresh mint leaves, chopped, or 1 tbsp dried mint
- salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. On a rimmed baking sheet or large roaster, combine cauliflower and sliced tangerine or lemon. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and smoked paprika, then douse liberally with olive oil. Toss to coat cauliflower evenly. Roast in the preheated oven, stirring once or twice, until cauliflower is tender and beginning to brown at the edges, about 40 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cook lentils & rice separately. In a small saucepan, combine 2 cups water with 1 cup rinsed green lentils. Bring to a boil and maintain a low boil for 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce to a bare simmer and cook, partially covered, until lentils are tender yet still al dente, about 15 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking. In another small saucepan, add rinsed rice to a scant 2 cups boiling water (or less depending on the type of rice). Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, at a bare simmer until water is absorbed, about 15 to 40 minutes depending on rice variety. Allow rice to sit, covered, for about 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.
- Make dressing: pour lemon juice into a half-pint jar. Add an equal amount of olive oil, then add a few more splashes of oil. Add salt, pepper and mint. Shake well to emulsify. Taste and adjust seasonings or oil:lemon ratio.
- In a very large bowl, combine roasted cauliflower, scallions, nuts, and cranberries. With a fork, fluff the rice into the bowl. Add approximately the same amount of lentils (you may have some lentils leftover: I often find I have about a cup or so of cooked lentils that I reserve). Shake the dressing again, then pour about half of it over the salad. Add cilantro. Toss well. Taste and add more dressing if needed (I generally use it all), and adjust seasonings. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Serves 6 to 8 as a main course.
- As noted above, options are plentiful: you can keep this salad fresh & interesting by switching up the variety of cauliflower, the type of rice, the nuts, fruit, citrus and herbs. The salad is rich & hearty as it is, so I would not attempt to add meat or cheese: it would obscure the flavors in the salad.
Refrigerated for up to 5 days.