So, there’s your everyday fruits and there’s your occasion fruits. Think apples, oranges, grapes, bananas – they’re the everyday ones for me … the packed lunch regulars, the fruit bowl fillers, the ones that have a firm, established place in the weekly shop. Then there’s our ‘occasion’ friends – the jewels of the fruit world, the bling, the dazzlers, the special treats … think raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, mangos and let’s not forget cherries.
For me, cherries are the special treats of all fruity treats. They are so, so good looking and with their built-in handles, they are perfect for picking, one by one from an unsuspecting bowl. For our #2 teenage son, this is the definition of perfection and better than a bag of sweets any day.
But despite loving a cherry, I have to admit that I rarely do anything with them other than enjoying them ‘au naturel’. It’s two things. Firstly like most of the ‘occasion’ fruits, for 98% of the year, they are pricey and when they’re pricey, I don’t buy them very often and avoid messing around with them too much when I do. And the second reason, is that I am, to be honest, put off by having to remove those pits. I’m sure there’s some handy little device for this but I wouldn’t use it enough to justify it.
And then I spotted this beautiful Cherry, Goat’s Cheese and Lentil Salad – and all of a sudden I had moved into the world of cherries in salads. And what a world … It showcases the cherries along with some pretty lentils, a scattering of creamy goat’s cheese and a few crunchy walnuts. And the cherry on the top? (did you see what I did there?!) …blitzing a few of the cherries in with some olive oil and a bit of wine vinegar to make the most sublime cherry vinaigrette. GOR-geous.
And here’s why this salad could be the cherry on the top for you too –
- This is a super easy salad. No skill required here. The dullest part is pitting the cherries for sure, but actually it was pretty quick when I found a sharp knife and my rhythm. Be wary of falling into the ‘pit a cherry, eat a cherry’ trap. Easily done. Very easily done.
- And to make it even easier, I’ve opted for pre-cooked lentils. You’re welcome.
- This tastes SO good. The sweetness of the cherry vinaigrette, the creaminess of the goat’s cheese and that hint of basil. A dish delish.
- It makes a few cherries go a long way, so good for your bank balance too.
- Lots of yummy, healthy ingredients and it’ll stave off those hunger pangs for ages. That’s the power of the lentil.
- It’s seriously pretty.
- I can vouch for the fact that it is lovely the next day for a leftovers lunch.
- Serve this to guests from a big, white platter and it’ll be big-time impressive.
- Take it to a friend’s house when you’ve been asked to bring a salad and you’ll be the talk of the town.
So, the next time you buy yourself a bag of cherries, think beyond just devouring them in the car on the way home and try out this winning salad. On second thoughts buy 2 bags.
- 500g (17½ oz) cooked green lentils - I used 2 tins, drained and rinsed
- 4 handfuls baby spinach, stems trimmed
- 85g (3oz) walnut halves
- 210g (7½ oz) fresh cherries, pitted
- 120ml (½ cup) extra virgin olive oil
- 60ml (¼ cup) white wine vinegar
- salt and pepper
- a few basil leaves
- a bit of soft goat's cheese, roughly crumbled
- Put the lentils into a large, microwaveable bowl and warm them gently for a couple of minutes. Now toss the spinach leaves through the warm lentils until the leaves have wilted a bit. You may need to pop them back into the microwave for another minute if the lentils are not warm enough.
- Now add most of the walnuts to the salad.
- Make the cherry vinaigrette by combining one-third of the cherries, the olive oil, white wine vinegar and ¼ teaspoon of salt and blending until smooth. I use a stick blender for this but you could also use a small jug blender. Add a generous splash of dressing to the salad.
- Tear some of the remaining cherries in half and stir most of them into the lentils. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
- Turn the salad out onto a platter and finish with the last of the cherries and walnuts, the basil and the goat's cheese. Drizzle with a little more dressing and serve the rest of it on the side.