This twist on a Vegan Panzanella Salad is packed with protein from the lentils, and paired with a delicious mustardy vinaigrette!
The weird thing about having your own blog is that you’re so hyper-aware of your own stuff… you assume that any little change or difference will be noticed and commented upon. Well, maybe you don’t think that way and it’s just me. But after having blogged here at W+F for almost six months now, I’m really starting to figure out which direction I want to go in, and the type of content I want to create.
I suppose it all goes back to my roots growing up. My parents aren’t very culinarily adventurous, so when I went vegetarian, I was forced to learn how to cook for myself. And then I really credit Eddie’s Million Dollar Cookoff (a Disney channel movie, of all things) for my “higher” culinary awakening, if you will – into the world of haute cuisine. In college I considered myself a “foodie” and was into the whole wine + cheese boards thing. I watched Iron Chef America on repeat, read Julia Child, took cooking and wine tasting classes when I studied abroad in France, and actually compiled my own culinary dictionary containing over 400 terms I had come across in my studies. Then, through many channels, I was rudely awakened into the sad, inhumane, and inhuman – in every sense of the word – world of factory farming.
Now, in my past life as a non-vegan, I had this mental image of vegan food as being just plain rice and steamed broccoli – bland, boring, and devoid of flavor. But, as Jackie (aka The Beeroness) has so cleverly said, “If you can’t cook a vegan meal that you love, you just aren’t that good of cook.” TRUTH BOMB. And yes, I get the arguments that butter and cheese are delicious. But if they’re the primary things you’re relying on for flavor, you’re doing flavors wrong. It was a lesson I had yet to learn.
The message I want to send out through this space is that vegan food is just, after all, food – and it can be as good, bad, healthy, unhealthy, and amazing as non-vegan food. I want to focus more on the quality and experience of my recipes, instead of fitting into this image of a super-health-focused blogger I thought I would be. Don’t get me wrong, I will still be creating recipes that are healthy. But I remember at the time I was creating my blog, I was following all these raw vegan and health-focused Instagrammers who were posting beautiful photos of banana ice cream bowls and raw plates and grain-free everything. And all of that is great and I love raw foods, but that lifestyle is not indicative of me. I’d be lying if I said I ate super “healthy” all the time. I grew up with an Italian mother, so I’m used to pastas, sauces, pestos, olive oil, and lots of bread. My father’s side is Scottish and English, so we eat a lot of potatoes on that end. And then my favorite non-heritage-related cuisines include Japanese, Mexican, and French. I just love delving into different cultures and cuisines – in my opinion, it’s one of the best ways to learn about another culture. Every culture in the world has their own ingredients, dishes, spice blends, techniques – and I just want to soak it all in.
As I’m writing this, I’m really kicking myself for the sort of mental roadblocks I set up for myself. I guess I saw all of the successful health bloggers / Instagrammers and thought that their style was the best way to go. But as successful as those people are, they are not me, and I am not them. I can only be true to myself, and I was kind of afraid to do that before. (If I use pasta in this recipe, all of the gluten-free people won’t like W+F anymore! This recipe takes more than 20 minutes, nobody’s going to want to make this! Nobody in their right mind wants to hand-roll gnocchi!!) But those fears were honestly just silly. Regardless of whether there’s a “market” for these sort of recipes, that’s the type of food I love, so why not pursue it with all my heart? Ultimately, I want Well and Full to be about delicious flavors, inspired by cuisines near and far, that are impressive and well-balanced but still unassuming and approachable – with the occasional comfort recipe inspired by home or a hippie-dip dish that I love!!
It’s funny that my tag line has been “Adventures in a plant-based kitchen” from the get-go, because I feel like I’m only now living up to that credo. Even if you can’t travel physically, experiencing other cultures through food is such an amazing adventure! And at the risk of sounding like a huge goober, I hope y’all will join me for the ride!
Lentil Panzanella w/ Herbed Thyme Dijon Dressing
- 3/4 Cup Green Lentils
- 3 Cups Water to cook
- 2 Cups Ezekiel Bread or other hearty bread, torn into small-ish pieces
- Drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Pinch of Sea Salt + Pepper
- Fresh Arugula
Herbed Thyme Dijon Dressing
- 1 Clove Garlic minced
- 1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 Tbs Dijon Mustard
- Juice from 1/2 - 1 Lemon to taste
- A little zest from the lemon
- 2 Tsp Fresh Thyme Leaves packed
- 3 Tsp Fresh Parsley Leaves packed
- 1/4 Tsp Sea Salt or more to taste
- 1/4 Tsp Black Pepper or more to taste
- 1 Tbs Water to thin
To start, bring 3 cups water to boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Add lentils and cook uncovered, for about 20-25 minutes, or until lentils are chewable but still have a bit of "bite". When done, rinse lentils with cool water and drain. Set aside for later.
To make panzanella croutons, break your bread into small pieces, about an inch thick. You can use a knife but the traditional way is to break the bread by hand! I used two slices of Ezekiel bread and that turned out to be about 2 cups, when broken.
Bring a pan to medium heat. Drizzle pan with a generous glug of olive oil. Add in bread pieces and cook, tossing frequently, until bread starts to become toasty and brown, about 5-10 minutes depending on how hot your pan is.
When panzanella bread is done, toss in a bowl with a pinch of sea salt and pepper. Set aside.
To make the vinaigrette, combine all ingredients into a high speed blender and blend on high until herbs are fully emulsified and the dressing is smooth. Taste, and adjust seasonings if necessary.
To make the salad, toss a few handfuls of fresh arugula, lentils, panzanella bread, and dressing in a bowl until evenly mixed.
Song of the Day:
Sympathique – Pink Martini