I had originally made this Asian inspired salad dressing for a chicken salad, but the black lentils I had soaked the night before were calling out to be used instead. What happened next was a delicious and healthy Cold Lentil Salad with Butternut Squash and Asparagus that’s easy enough to be called a meal.
This salad is filled with good things like fresh Spring asparagus, cubed butternut squash that gets pan seared with Chinese Five Spice powder, Tabasco infused black lentils, almonds and arugula greens. I love black lentils, sometimes called beluga lentils because they resemble caviar and are round and hold their shape during cooking, unlike other lentils that break down and tend to become mushy. This makes them perfect for pilafs and salads like this one.
Good, healthy and filling stuff, but feel free to add chicken or whatever meat protein you want if you like. We have this one both ways!
Now, about those Tabasco infused lentils. I haven’t shared with you my latest trip down to Avery Island, home to Tabasco…
Two weeks ago I was lucky enough to be asked to attend the Tabasco Tastemakers event on Avery Island in Louisiana. What a thrill to be going to such an iconic brand’s production facilities and the grounds where the original red pepper sauce was first made. I attended the event with 9 other food bloggers and was excited to meet some of them that I knew and make some new friends along the way.
There was so much planned for us from an Avery Island Tour that included a visit to the fields where the peppers were grown, a Jungle Gardens & Bird City visit, a very cool Greenhouse & Barrel Warehouse Tour, which included checking out and tasting the red pepper mash and aged mash.
Later in the afternoon a “Cooking with Louisiana Heat” cooking demo from none other than Chef Isaac Toups from Bravo’s “Top Chef” .
Another day on Avery Island had us visiting the McIlhenny Company Archives with Dr. Shane Bernard, Historian & Curator. The history of Avery Island was so interesting and Tabasco Red Pepper Sauce has been integrated into the lives of so many for so long.
What I learned was back in 1868, Edmund McIlhenny mixed up his own personal pepper sauce recipe with 3 simple key ingredients that started a hot pepper sauce tradition carried on to this day, five generations later.
Fully aged tabasco red peppers, salt from Avery Island, Louisiana, and distilled vinegar are the three natural ingredients that make up the sauce. After the crushed red pepper and salt mash gets aged in white oak barrels for 3 years, its later combined with a high-quality, distilled vinegar, strained for clarity and the result is the distinctive Tabasco Sauce known the world over.
The storage facilities for the barrels that are aged reminds me of the Indiana Jones movie where at the end the Arc is stored. Row after tall row of barrels are here. Each gets a thick covering of salt. As the peppers ferment and become a matured mash air escapes and gurgles out the top. Barrels are tapped with hammers and air bubbles escape up.
We were treated to an Airboat Ride later, zipping through the bayous, floating on the water, zipping past gators. So fun! To cool everyone down later we were treated to “Spice & Ice” – Tabasco Cocktails with Mixologist Nick Detrich.
He was delightful, passionate and so informative making cocktails that were enhanced using Tabasco. He even made me an alcohol free Green Pepper Sauce Pineapple and Herb drink that was just outstanding. He called it his Pequito Verdecito. I’ve included the recipe here if you’d like to download it.
We hit up the Processing & Tabasco Factory later and that was just fascinating. I love the behind the scenes stuff of how things are put together, assembled and how production is simplified and thought out. If you follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter I was posting like mad. Each time I turned around there was another great visual to be shared.
What was great was Tabasco had no issues with us taking videos or photos throughout the plant and I took full advantage of it. Here is a quick snippet of part of the bottling process.
Later we were able to do a “Tabasco Tasting: A Family of Flavors” at the Main Offices. Wow, what great time.
There was the iconic Tabasco Sauce, but also a Green Pepper Sauce, Chipotle Pepper, Buffalo Style Hot Sauce, Habanero (one of my favorites, great heat, but the flavor, wow!) Garlic Pepper and Sweet & Spicy (Probably the mildest of all, but so good).
A sweet Raspberry Chipotle and Family Reserve Pepper Sauce were two other flavors that made it to our tasting tables. The Family Reserve is a mixture of several of the different barrels of mash.
A trick that we learned was to use a little tab of butter to coat your tongue in between tastings and also it cleanses the palette. It works, really! Don’t go running for that cold glass of water, nope, it doesn’t help. The oils only get swished around and it doesn’t really cool you down as a bit of butter would.
While Tabasco adds a heat to whatever you put it on, it brings out the flavor of whatever you put it on. 140 years of hand crafted, bold and delicious red pepper sauce goodness splashed on everything from Eggs Benedict, in Bloody Mary’s to whatever you decide to create like this Cold Lentil Salad with Butternut Squash and Asparagus.
I used a good, hefty 1 tablespoon of the Tabasco Sweet & Spicy Pepper Sauce in the water I used to cook the lentils in. I felt it lent itself well to the Asian influenced salad dressing I wanted to make and infused the lentils with a great sweet and spicy flavor to enhance the cold salad.
Tabasco Sweet & Spicy has a special blending of both sweet and hot flavors, it’s what they like to call “sweet heat.” It’s perfect for dipping, using in glazes and basting on the grill. It has just the right amount of balanced flavor with exotic Asian influences and that’s why I chose it for this dish.
I was right, this cold lentil salad is outstanding. I hope you give this one a try. Tasty stuff and don’t be afraid of the amount of Tabasco used here, it’s flavor, not heat!
Thanks again to all who helped put the trip together – Jenn, Jennifer and Sarah and to everyone at Tabasco for their generosity. Now I need to go have a second helping of this Tabasco inspired salad. Enjoy!
Disclosure: I’m very excited to partner with Tabasco. I received all of the Tabasco products mentioned here for free and I used the Tabasco Sweet & Spicy Pepper Sauce in this recipe. I also received compensation for this post. I am happy for the opportunity to share brands with you that I believe in, and I hope you enjoy my recipe. Thanks for supporting the companies that continue to make Kevin Is Cooking possible.
Cold Lentil Salad with Butternut Squash and Asparagus
- 1 cup dried black lentils
- 3 cups water
- 1 tbsp Tabasco Sweet & Spicy Pepper Sauce
- 1 lb butternut squash cubed
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tsp Chinese Five Spice powder
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1 lb asparagus tough ends removed, chopped
- 2 cup arugula washed
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds
- Asian Dressing
- 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger paste or 2 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp Chinese Five Spice powder
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tsp Tabasco Sweet & Spicy Pepper Sauce
- 1/2 tsp sesame oil
- Soak lentils overnight in water covered by one inch. Rinse lentils and cook in medium saucepan with water and Tabasco Sweet & Spicy Pepper Sauce. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook for 25 minutes covered.
- Whisk together the salad dressing ingredients. Set aside. Drain cooked lentils, place in a large bowl and pour dressing over. Stir to mix thoroughly and put in refrigerator to cool about 30 minutes.
- In a large skillet over medium heat melt the butter and add butternut squash. Toss to coat and add salt and Five Spice powder. Toss to coat and cook until browned on the edges, about 5-8 minutes. Add the chopped asparagus, toss to mix in and cover for 5 minutes to steam. Remove lid and place vegetables in bowl. Refrigerate to cool, about 15 minutes.
- Add washed arugula to bowl with lentil and add the cooled vegetables. Toss to thoroughly mix and coat with salad dressing. Serve chilled with slivered almonds on top.