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butternut and lentil salad + getting closer


So recently I’ve taken on a teeny bit more responsibility at work, but! It’s allowed me to enjoy weekends with my man, which is pretty amazing. For as long as we’ve been together, I’ve worked in restaurants–being scheduled on the weekends goes with that territory. He works Monday to Friday, so our together time was usually pretty well planned out when we had it. I still work in the industry, but lately, what with my new weekend freedom, we just decide on an activity at our leisure. Crazy. We go for hikes, look at the wildlife (there’s a lovely and very social duck pond nearby), sit around and play with our dogs, go for a run together, watch a movie, enjoy a coffee in the still-bright autumn sun–whatever we decide in that moment, that’s what we’re doing. I know this is totally normal for most people, but I’m still pinching myself.

I don’t know if it’s the coziness of Fall or the new free time or what exactly, but it’s making me feel a lot warmer and fuzzier about relationships in general, so grateful for all the interesting and lovely people in my life. I do revel in the complexities of the world and love working out problems of all persuasions, but I honestly don’t need much to be happy in my day to day. Lovely people and good food, roof over my head. That’s it. Just with that slight schedule change, I feel like I’ve won the lottery or something. My corner of the world is pretty rosy right now.

So to tie everything (and it really is everything) back into the recipe du jour: This dish is inspired by one that Mark and I recently enjoyed when we spontaneously (wee!) decided to eat at a place I’ve been dying to go to for a while. I kind of panicked a bit when I entertained the idea of going there, thinking we would need a reservation on a Friday night. Everything worked out fine. It was cozy, our waitress was so sweet, I warmed my hands (and insides) with a delicious hot toddy, we enjoyed the mentioned salad, some warm olives and fantastic wood-fired pizza. Happy endings for sure.


salty-sweet butternut and lentil salad
serves: 4-5
notes: I steam the squash so that I can retain the clean shape of it, but you could make this with some leftover roasted squash (perhaps from your Thanksgiving festivities…) if you have it on hand.

dressing:
juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 cup)
2 tbsp agave nectar
salt and pepper
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

salad:
1 small butternut squash, peeled
1 cup green lentils, picked through and rinsed
5-6 handfuls arugula
1/4-1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
salt and pepper

Cook the lentils: combine the rinsed lentils with 3 cups of water and a pinch of salt in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes or until lentils are just tender and most of the liquid is absorbed. Stir here and there while they’re cooking. Set aside when done.

Steam the squash: fill a large pot with an inch or two of water and bring to a boil. Cut the peeled squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and slice both halves into 1/2 inch slices crosswise. Place slices on a steamer basket and drop into the pot of boiling water. Cover and steam for about 15-20 minutes or until squash is tender, but still has a little toothsome quality.

Make the dressing: combine all dressing ingredients in a blender and blend on high until combined. Set aside. You could whisk them all together too.

Assemble: toss the lentils and arugula with 3/4 of the dressing. Season with salt and pepper.  Place this mixture onto your serving plate. Top with the cooked squash slices. Pour remaining dressing over top. Sprinkle the top with feta and serve.

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Jen22/11/2011 - 1:08 pm

I used to work a job in the wine industry where we tended to work more weekends during the holiday seasons, mostly because of shear demand for our product. I spent more Saturdays and Sundays that I’d ever have liked visiting wine shops and grocery stores making sure they had product on the shelves. I also spent my evenings doing wine tastings and holiday events. While I loved wine (and still love wine), I ultimately left that job partly because I wanted to live in the world that “regular” people lived in. Spending weekends with my family and friends, celebrating holidays with everyone else. It can be hard to follow your passion and ‘live your life’ simultaneously, and I’m so glad to hear that you’ve gotten an opportunity to do both. I wish you many more spontaneous weekends with those you love.

Laura22/11/2011 - 6:55 pm

Thanks for the warm and lovely comment, Jen. It’s so crazy to have a “normal” schedule now and I’m sure you understand that. Feeling pretty grateful :)

Heart Healthy Diet25/11/2011 - 5:30 pm

I couldnt have said it any better to be honest! keep up the awesome work. You are very talented & I only wish I could write as good as you do :) …
Heart Healthy Recipes

Andrea02/12/2011 - 9:57 am

I love this post. It made me feel all warm and cozy – and appreciative of all the good people and food n my own life!

[...] done for most salads, I choose to cut it into round slices after seeing this post from The First Mess. How beautiful is it layered upon the spring greens and lentils?! Once assembled it’s [...]

[…] dish every time. In this salad,  I choose to cut it into round slices after seeing this post from The First Mess instead of cubing the squash like traditionally done.  Isn’t it beautiful layered upon the […]

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