I like to think of myself as a professional picnic-er. I got the whole set-up: the compartmentalized wicker basket, the cute little glass jars, the blanket. As the season for al fresco dining draws near, my body just wants to be outside in the sunshine while I eat.
I actually made this salad up years ago after an inspiring trip to Marrakesh. Although my version is quite different from the salads I enjoyed there, the spices, colors and mix of veggies and dried fruit certainly evokes the feelings of Morocco.
Moroccan Carrot Ribbons and Black Lentils makes for perfect picnic fare because it can hang outside of the fridge, tastes better after a few hours, and there is nothing to fuss with on arrival. No assembly required! Simple, delicious, and satisfying – my kind of food enjoyed both inside and out.
Carrots for Eyesight – Fact or Fiction?
When I was a kid my parents told me two things: that eating the crusts of my bread would make my hair curly and that carrots were good for my eyesight. Once I realized that the crusts of bread would certainly not give me the head of hair I longed for, I of course questioned the carrot claim too. Turns out, that one is definitely true.
The eyes are repositories for lutein – a carotenoid found in carrots – concentrated in the retina and lens. Observational studies have noted that higher dietary intake of lutein is related to reduced risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, two eye conditions for which there is minimal options when it comes to effective prevention. Researchers speculate that this carotenoid may promote eye health through its ability to protect the eyes from light-induced oxidative damage and aging through its antioxidant action as well as its ability to filter out UV light. 
Researchers at the Jules Stein Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles determined that women who consume carrots at least twice per week — in comparison to women who consume carrots less than once per week — have significantly lower rates of glaucoma (damage to the optic nerve often associated with excessive pressure inside the eye). 
Moroccan Carrot Ribbons and Black Lentils
1 cup black (beluga) lentils
2-3 large carrots
1 small red onion
½ cup each chopped mint and cilantro
1 Tbsp. cumin seeds
½ Tbsp. green anise seeds
¼ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. smoked paprika
¼ tsp. ground coriander
pinch of cayenne or crushed chilies
1 Tbsp. freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. raw honey or agave
3 Tbsp cold pressed olive oil
pinch of sea salt
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice
pinch of salt
1. Whisk the carrot marinade together in large bowl. Wash the carrots and using a peeler, peel long strips lengthwise and place in the bowl with the marinade. Let sit while you make the rest of the salad.
2. Soak the lentils first if possible. Drain and rinse well. Cook the lentils according to the package instructions (about 20-30 minutes) with a few pinches of salt, just until al dente – be careful not to over cook them. Drain and lightly rinse.
3. While the lentils are cooking, make the dressing. First, toast the cumin and anise seeds in a dry skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant. Remove from heat and using a mortar and pestle, give the seeds and rough grind (this is optional). Add all remaining dressing ingredients, whisk well. Add the warm lentils and marinated carrots, including any leftover marinade. Slice prunes and onions thinly and add. Add washed and chopped herbs. Season to taste. Serve.