We're gonna cheat a little on the no-cook mandate, but the weather is cooling down, so can you handle about 15 minutes of stove work? You can even prepare the ingredients in advance on a cool day or at night and store them in the fridge until later.
I can't expound the benefits of this salad enough. While I have a healthy love for brown sugar Pop Tarts, a juicy NY strip, cheese of any kind and bacon, this recipe is my redemption. It takes advantage of all the fresh tomatoes and basil in the markets right now and can serve as a complete, guilt-free meal. It's also ultra-nutritious: pack a container for lunch and I promise it will carry you through the mid-afternoon doldrums and give you the energy to get to the gym.
Try to find French green lentils, also called lentilles de Puy and not to be confused with those bags of light green lentils in the super. This variety of lentil holds its shape when cooking, but if you have to use the light green ones, subtract a couple minutes cooking time and aim for al dente or you'll end up with a mushy salad. I've had a difficult time finding them lately, but I refused to believe there was an area-wide run on French lentils, so a random stop at Rodman's turned up 17.5-oz. boxes of Roland Green Lentils. (Can I take this moment here to express my love for all things Roland? This company single-handedly provides a fix for multiple food addictions, many of them olive-related. And also Rodman's, while I'm at it. They are a foodie's version of a methadone clinic.)
How much do you use? Simmer a cup of dry lentils for about 15-20 minutes. Drain, cool for a few minutes and season them with a tablespoon of vinegar (white, red wine or balsamic...your pick, depending on your palate), salt and pepper.
Use whole wheat couscous if you'd like to increase the healthfulness, regular couscous if it doesn't matter to you (or if that's all you can find). About one cup, prepared according to directions. You can cook this at the same time as the lentils.
By the way, you can find all the ingredients for this in Rodman's or Trader Joe's. TJ's doesn't have French green lentils, but they do sell bags of pre-cooked black Beluga lentils, which can be subbed in with no problem (and no cooking!).
Mash a garlic clove** with 1/4 tablespoon salt. Whisk this with another 2 tablespoons of vinegar, about 3 tablespoons of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. In a large bowl, stir together this dressing with the lentils and couscous. **If raw garlic is too powerful, toast the clove in a dry pan on a medium-heat stove for a minute or two until lightly browned to tone down the flavor.
Tomatoes: two cups of halved cherries, pears or grapes, or seeded and diced Romas, heirlooms or any garden variety tomato you can find.
Cheese, glorious cheese: feta is the traditional choice. I prefer goat feta because I like its tanginess but I've also used regular goat cheese (one that is on the firmer side). Chop a 4-oz. chunk and add.
Greens: basil, definitely, at least a cup. Spinach and/or arugula are fantastic in this salad, too, and increase its nutritional value tremendously -- try a chopped cup of each or 2 cups of one. You could probably add mint, too, but there are so many strong flavors competing in this already that it might be overkill.
Pignolis, or pine nuts: totally optional, but if you have them on hand, add a quarter cup. Toast them first (with the garlic!) for a nuttier flavor, but watch carefully as they can turn from brown to burnt in a heartbeat.
Give everything a stir and let it chill for an hour or more. It will last several days in your fridge...if you can keep it around that long. Enjoy it as a side dish with any grilled protein or as a complete meal by itself. Bring it to a potluck and you will be asked for the recipe.
Again, this recipe is highly customizable. It's also a good vehicle for testing your palate, so taste frequently and adjust according to your own preferences, regardless of the amounts I provided, which are really just guidelines. However, be cautious with salt, as the cheese will add its own, and with this recipe it's hard to undo the damage of too much salt.