I’m a huge fan of lentil salad when the weather careens between 90+ degrees some days and chilly-fall-is-in-the-air-temperatures on others. You can serve it warm or room temperature and it goes as well with hot soup as it does with cold. You can make it part of an elaborate buffet, or grab it out of the refrigerator for a quick meal. I like to pair it with crusty sourdough bread, spread with excellent quality unsalted butter and topped with thinly sliced radishes.
This recipe is basically lentils and vegetables with vinegar and oil (vinaigrette) dressing. There are lots of variations on this theme; you can add or subtract to vegetables and change up the ingredients in the vinaigrette. The three most important features of the salad are:
- Choose a type of lentil beans that retains its shape and cook the beans al dente;
- Cut the vegetables relatively small, so that they blend in with the lentils and no single one of them sticks out because it is oversized; and
- Mix the ingredients while the lentils and cooked vegetables are still warm, to help them absorb the dressing.
I used brown lentils called Spanish Pardina (pictured in the front, below.) French green (du Puy) lentils would also work well in this recipe. Just don’t use a type that disintegrates easily.
The tomatoes are added after the lentils and other vegetables are cooked. If you’re anti-tomato seeds, you can push most of them out as you chop up the tomatoes. This is a perfect dish for using tomato “seconds” that you buy at a farmers market (at a discount) because you can always discard a bruise or bump as you cut them up.
Lentil Salad With Tomatoes and Vinaigrette
Servings – 6 Cost – $5
- 1 cup dry lentils
- 2-3 cups of water
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup mixed onions and yellow, red, or orange (green is too bitter) pepper, diced small
- 1 cup mixed celery and carrots, diced small
- 1 cup portabella, baby bella, or white button mushrooms diced small
- 1 cup chopped tomatoes (plus more if desired)
- 6 tablespoons of tablespoons olive oil
- 2-3 tablespoons of sherry or white balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ – 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- Salt (preferably Kosher or coarse sea) and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Cutting board
- Strainer (colander with small holes)
- Wooden spoon
- Large bowl
- Small bowl and fork or whisk or a small jar with a tight-fitting lid
- Measuring spoons
- Measuring cups
- Cut the vegetables. You can use the technique in the Stone Soup recipe for the onions, peppers, celery and carrots – i.e. line up thin strips and cut them cross-wise.
- Wash and drain the lentils. (Occasionally a tiny stone gets mixed into a batch of lentils – you know to pull it out, right?) Put the lentils, bay leaf, and water into the pot and bring to a rolling boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the lentils about 30-40 minutes. The only true way to tell is to taste them when you think they are done. (Remember – no second tastes with the same spoon. Use a clean one if you need another taste later on.)
- While the lentils are cooking, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in the pan, add the onions and peppers and cook for 3-5 minutes on a medium-low heat until they are softened.
- Add the celery and carrots and cook for another 5 minutes or so.
- Add the mushrooms and cook until they are softened, 2-4 minutes.
- When the lentils are done, drain them in the colander and put them in the bowl.
- Add the cooked vegetables and the chopped tomatoes.
- Make the dressing by mixing the remaining olive oil (4 tablespoons), the vinegar, mustard and thyme. (If your thyme leaves are large, you may want to chop them up a bit.) I like to make salad dressing by shaking the ingredients in a small jar with a tight-fitting lid. A small bowl and a whisk or fork work fine too.
- Pour the salad dressing over the warm lentils and vegetables, add salt and pepper to taste, and let the mixture sit at least 15 minutes so the lentils and vegetables absorb the dressing.
Serve warm or room temperature.