I love lentils! They’re one of my favorite comfort foods, and they’re so versatile, especially for vegetarians like me. I’ve used them for everything from a ground beef substitute to breakfast food. One of my all-time favorite things to do with them, though, is to make this delicious lentil salad.
I’m a stay-at-home mother now, but before my children were born, I used to dutifully pack a lunch to work so as to avoid the tempting fast-food pickup that someone would unfailingly offer. Having a healthy – yet delicious – lunch of my own was important to me. But even more important was that it had to be easy to make, assemble and get together in the mornings. So every Sunday, I would make up a big bowl of these seasoned lentils. I’d chop up the veggies, make the dressing, and then each night would put a portion in a container along with a few other side dishes, and it made the mornings much smoother and the days healthier.
Now that I am home all day, I still make this up and eat it often. Lentils are a great source of protein, which helps me feel full and well-fed. Instead of having a plain vegetable salad and being hungry an hour later, using protein (specifically the lentils) as a starting point would keep me feeling pleasantly full for several hours instead.
The great thing about this recipe is that it is totally customizable and still tastes delicious. When I was out of a good variety of ingredients, I used straight, undiluted red wine vinegar as the dressing (4 calories!) and it was still wonderful.
I’m a huge onion and garlic lover, so I go heavy on the them both. You can use less or even omit the garlic from the dressing, and of course change the vegetables to what you prefer. In fact, the vegetables I use in my salads change as frequently as I go grocery shopping. Some days I’ll add green peas and beets; other days I’ll use just a pepper and tomato. So please think of this recipe only a starting-off point – then modify it so that it’s perfect for you!
And if you don’t feel like a salad, the seasoned lentils alone will stand up well to many recipes.
You can use these in soups, in stews, or even eat them alone, topped with a little tomato sauce and cheddar cheese. If you make a large batch of seasoned lentils, they freeze incredibly well, and you can pop them out in the middle of the week for a quick side dish (or main dish!) for dinner.
The Recipe: (makes about 6-8 servings)
Garden Lentil Salad with Tangy Garlic-Mustard Vinaigrette
1 ½ c dried brown lentils
2 ¼ cup water
– ½ t thyme
– ½ t cumin
– ½ t chili powder
– ¼ t garlic powder
– ¼ t celery seed
– 2 T dried minced onion
– ½ t dried mustard powder
– black pepper
1/3 c chopped red onion
1 chopped sweet bell pepper
1-2 chopped carrots
1 carton cherry tomatoes, halved, or 2 large tomatoes, sliced
½ c halved and pitted kalamata olives
Handful of baby greens, such as baby kale or arugula
(heartier greens will last long if you plan to make this for a week )
4-6 minced garlic cloves (or to taste)
1/2 c red wine vinegar
1 t grainy mustard
1/2 T extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Feta cheese (optional)
To make the seasoned lentils:
Rinse the lentils under running water and put into a pot. Add seasonings. Pour in the 2 ¼ cup water and bring to a boil. Stir once, reduce heat, and partially cover with a lid. Simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the liquid has been mostly absorbed. Remove from heat, and let sit, covered for about 10 minutes. Add salt to taste.
To assemble the salad:
Let the lentils cool to room temperature or chill. Once they are no longer hot, place them in a large bowl. Add onion, pepper, carrots, tomatoes and olives. Chop greens roughly and add.
To make the vinaigrette:
For the vinaigrette, finely mince garlic. In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, add garlic, red wine vinegear, mustard, and olive oil. Close lid and shake to combine. Open and adjust seasonings. Add to lentil salad bit by bit, stirring often, and testing flavor as you go until you reach your desired flavor. Refrigerate any unused vinaigrette. (Makes about 1 cup)
Top with feta cheese, if desired, and serve!
~ Mellie ★