Black is beautiful

Lentil Bell Pepper Salad

One of the things I strongly dislike in cooking is removing the skins from roasted peppers. I always end up with chunks of peppers to which the skin sticks stubbornly. I tried roasting them over an open flame on the gas stovetop once; it was messy and rather unsuccessful so I went back to broiling them in the oven. Also, I do not like the idea of letting the peppers sweat in a zip plastic bag, like some recipes tell you. I try to avoid generating non-biodegradable waste whenever I can.

As I was browsing through the freezer last night thinking what I could bring to Phoebe’s Pure Food vegan/raw food potluck tonight, I knew I had to make something with bell peppers: the freezer is filled with them. So I made a veganized version of a lentil salad recipe a relative gave me many years ago.

After letting the peppers thaw slightly and pressing them flat, I broiled them until their skins were really charred.  I stood in front of the oven and fought against my instinct of rescuing the peppers, to which I had tended to all summer in the garden, from cremation. Then I stacked them in a plastic food storage container, which works great as a sweat box.

As for removing the skins, it was a cinch, they all came off beautifully. Now I can only hope the salad tastes as good as I feel about my newly overcome kitchen pet peeve.

Lentil Salad with Red Bell Peppers

1 cup brown or green lentils

1 teaspoon vegetable soup base

3 red bell peppers, halved, stems and seeds removed

3 tablespoons lemon-infused extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 garlic clove, passed through the garlic press

1 teaspoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon chili powder

¼ teaspoon ground mustard

1 teaspoon salt, more to taste

Freshly milled black pepper

1. Rinse lentils and put them in a small saucepan. Dilute vegetable soup base in 3 cups water, add it to the lentils. Bring to a boil, then, reduce the heat and cook, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes. Towards the end, check for water and add a bit more if necessary. Do not overcook the lentils; they should still have some bite. Drain the lentils and rinse under cold water, drain again.

2. Place the peppers on a cutting board and press them down with your hands to flatten, trying not to break their skins. Place them on a jellyroll pan under the broiler and broil until the skin is charred and forms blisters. Turn the pan around if necessary to ensure even broiling. Place the peppers in a food storage container with a lid and let them sweat for 10 to 15 minutes. When they are cool enough to handle, remove the skins. Chop the peppers coarsely.

3. In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil with the lemon juice, garlic, spices, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper.  Toss the lentils with the peppers, then, add the dressing and toss again. Season with salt and pepper and refrigerate until serving.

Makes 6 servings 

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