Skip to content

Simple Sides: Summer Lentil Salad with Immunity Booster Dressing

By Dennis Linden
Image of Summer Lentil Salad
Children in this country consume an estimated 12 percent of their calories from fast food, and 20 percent of all American meals are eaten in the car! The consequences are predictably unhealthy. Competing schedules in the day-to-day lives of a busy modern family make it difficult to share a home-cooked meal together, but not impossible. In fact, with a bit of planning, cooking together can become a fun family event and learning opportunity. This feature will focus on providing a child or a group of children, working together under the supervision of an adult, with one uncomplicated, healthy, and delicious side dish recipe. The dishes will be centered on seasonal fresh produce items; the recipes will always contain tasks that will allow even the youngest kitchen helper to contribute to the family meal. Parents should always read through each recipe carefully to judge the division of labor based on age and ability, as well as to identify where adult attention might be needed.
Image of Cookin' with Kids
Many of the recipes presented here will seem very basic; this is by design. We hope these simple preparations will provide the culinary foundation and confidence to inspire kids to try more challenging recipes as their experience and confidence in the kitchen develops. Melissa’s encourages parents to find the time to gather as a family unit at least once a week for a dinner that everyone pitches in to prepare. It’s a wonderful way to teach a child basic culinary skills, and, more importantly, cooking with your children will build memories in all your hearts forever. “No one is born a great cook, one learns by doing” – Julia Child.

In August, the summer heat is no time for a cooking lesson that involves a stovetop or hot oven. Besides, it’s grilling season! While open flame cooking on the barbie is best left to an adult, the family barbeque still provides a great opportunity for your aspiring sous chefs to help prepare some lighter, no-cook side dishes more appropriate for the season. So, here’s a cold salad that will give your helpers plenty of practice grating, slicing, chopping, and cubing their own chosen combination of fresh veggies and fruits that are then laced in a flavorful dressing packed with beneficial protective nutrients.

The foundation of this salad comes in a box – Melissa’s very popular Steamed Lentils. As one of the first foods cultivated by early man, lentils are an excellent source of cholesterol-lowering fiber, high in protein and essential nutrients. Lentils are an extremely versatile ingredient that can be added cold to salads during hot weather and mixed into hearty soups in the winter months. Melissa’s Steamed Lentils are pre-cooked, ready to use hot or cold right out of the package. For this recipe, the focus should be on making the very tasty dressing first so that the lentils can marinate while you prepare the salad ingredients.

Incorporating both root vegetables from Melissa’s Ginger and Turmeric Immunity Booster Pack in the dressing adds a unique flavor accent and healthy antioxidants. Both ginger and turmeric are loaded with powerful antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds. Ginger is known to help fight the common cold and relieve upset stomachs. Turmeric contains curcumin, which causes its vibrant color and has significant anti-inflammatory properties that rival those found in ibuprofen. Curcumin has been shown to protect healthy cells from cancer-causing agents, lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease. While the flavor of fresh ginger is slightly peppery and sweet, with a pungent and spicy aroma, turmeric has a more pronounced earthy-peppery taste. Both have a much livelier flavor than in their dried or powdered forms. Your kitchen crew should peel and grate both before combining with the four other ingredients in this simple recipe, then puree using a small immersion blender or food processor; this will reduce the root material to tiny bits, creating a smooth-textured dressing.

The salad ingredients, apart from the lentils, are quite flexible. I chose the mango-pepper-tomato-apple combination in the recipe below based on what I found appealing and of good quality during my ingredient shopping (i.e., what suited my fancy at the time)! Let your kitchen assistants do the same, with the only ingredient parameters being the same as in this recipe – two veggies and two fruits. This is a great way to give kids a hands-on lesson in pairing fresh flavors and colors together. Letting your helpers pick the ingredients also gives them a little more vested interest in making a flavorful salad rather than just being presented with a pile of ingredients to slice and dice. So, start this recipe by heading to the nearest retail produce department!

The various cuts needed in prepping each of the chosen salad ingredients provide a novice cook with knife skills experience and lots of practice time. If you use mango in your salad, show your helpers this video on How To Cut a Mango: 4 Ways.

This versatile recipe offers practice with various knife skills like a thin slice, cross-slice of peppers to make ringlets, as well as a few sizes of the chop cut, all skills that will serve for a lifetime in your child’s own kitchen. And I bet that dressing recipe will also survive in time as the dressing learned “when I was just a kid.” Cooking for history!

Summer Lentil Salad
Serves 8
Ingredients to Summer Lentil Salad
Ingredients:

1 tablespoon fresh turmeric, peeled & grated
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled & grated
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons Organic Blue Agave Syrup
½ teaspoon salt

Salad:
½ red onion, thinly sliced
3 Veggie Sweet Peppers, sliced crosswise to form thin rings
½ cup Roma tomatoes, medium chopped
½ Granny Smith apple, cubed or small chopped
1 mango, peeled and cubed
2 packages Melissa’s Steamed Lentils
1 bunch cilantro, chopped

What the supervising adult should do:

This is a simple dish to construct with a lot of knife work – closely supervise and guide the novice through all the different cuts required. A young child can be tasked with measuring out each salad ingredient as it is prepared as well as the dressing ingredients. There is plenty in this recipe to keep the whole family engaged!

What the kids can do:
Image of Ingredients for Dressing
Make the dressing: grate or measure out all ingredients, then combine them in a jar and shake well. Pour lentils right out of the box into a large salad bowl and toss with the dressing. Set aside to marinate while preparing the salad ingredients.
Image of Ingredients Prep
Prepare the fruit and vegetable ingredients.
Image of Mixing Salad in Bowl
Add the fruits and vegetables to the bowl of lentils and mix thoroughly. Toss in the cilantro just before serving. Enjoy at room temperature or chilled.
Image of Summer Lentil Salad
Previous article Simple Sides: Fig Stuffed Apples
Next article Simple Sides: No Mayo Potato Salad