Yes it’s been a while. And yes, you so deserve something fabulous for all that time off. What I’ve got for you are lentils. But not just lentils. Lentils that are picnic and lunch-in-a-jar worthy. Lentils that are daringly pot-luck worthy.
The first recipe—known to Googlers and My New Roots fans as “The Best Lentil Salad Ever”—is one I’ve been making for quite a while and swore I had already posted. All I’ve given you in the past from the lentil family, however, is a beautifully simple recipe in lunch deconstructed. This recipe is on the opposite side of the ingredient scale, thanks to the spice-crazy dressing. But the dressing makes it, and takes mere measuring vs. skill or labor.
I have on occasion violated the heck out of this recipe, omitting all extras, substituting spices, using raisins instead of currants and brown lentils instead of the fancy French ones. But I have also, recently, made it exactly as instructed, and fallen in love with it all over again. So make it as you will, with or without artistic license. It may or may not be the best lentil salad ever. If you are my sons, who have vowed to never, ever, eat a lentil it is the best lentil salad they’ll never have. If you are new to lentils it may win you over. If you are already a fan, dig in.
The Best-ish Lentil Salad Ever
Makes: a ton
- 2 ¼ cups (1 lb.) Du Puy lentils
- 1 medium red onion, diced
- 1 cup dried currants (you could also use raisins or other dried fruit)
- 1/3 cup capers
- 1/3 cup cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 Tbsp. maple syrup
- 1 Tbsp. strong mustard
- 2 tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. pepper
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- ½ tsp. turmeric
- ½ tsp. ground coriander
- ½ tsp ground cardamom
- ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
- ¼ tsp. ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
- ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
- Walnuts (these are more like mandatory. Walnuts and lentils? Basically married)
- Goat cheese
- Fresh herbs: flat-leaf parsley, cilantro, basil
- Crispy seasonal veggies
1. Rinse lentils well, drain. Place in a pot and cover with a 3-4 inches of water, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer. Check lentils for doneness after 15 minutes, but they should take about 20 minutes in total. You will know they are cooked if they still retain a slight tooth – al dente! Overcooking the lentils is the death of this dish. Be careful!
2. While the lentils are simmering, make the dressing by placing all ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake vigorously to combine.
3. Finely dice red onion – the salad is best if all the ingredients are about the same size. If using raisins, chop them roughly to make them a bit smaller, and do the same with the capers if they are large.
4. When the lentils are cooked, remove from heat, drain and place under cold running water to stop the cooking process. Once cooled slightly but still a little warm, place lentils in a large serving bowl and toss with dressing. Add other onion, capers, and currants. If using other add-ins such as herbs, greens, or cheese, wait until just before serving. Otherwise, this salad can hang out in the fridge for a couple days.
Lentils Part Deux
This next one is new to me. Creamy and cool vs shiny and spicy. It’s good though, and it really does keep for several days. I ignored the part about not bruising the spinach and basil and cut it as best I could. Pros use the babiest, farmiest spinach possible. Non pros may have bought a bag of baby arugula and been done with it (shhh!) According to the original creator, Peter Miller, who is a bring-lunch-to-work master: “Make this with a light touch so you can taste the different ingredients involved. And serve it in smaller portions than you might imagine—let people come back for seconds. It is a nod to pesto and a salute to yogurt.” That, my friends, is solid lentil prose.
Adapted slightly from Lunch at the Shop: The Art and Practice of the Midday Meal
Peter Millers Lentils Folded into Yogurt
- 1/2 cup pine nuts or chopped walnuts
- 2 cups baby spinach
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves
- 1 cup cooked lentils (small green Puy, or any other that will hold its shape)
- 2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 1 lemon
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
At the office (or the lodge, the car, the field or your friends house)
- 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, sliced
- Freshly ground black pepper
- At home: Heat a small sauté pan over medium heat. Add the pine nuts or walnuts and cook until lightly toasted, 5 to 7 minutes. Lay them out on a wooden cutting board to cool, then chop them roughly to the size of the lentils.
- If your knife is sharp enough to slice the spinach and basil leaves without bruising them, gently cut them into bite-size pieces. Otherwise, tear them by hand.
- Place the lentils in a bowl and mix in the spinach, basil, parsley, and garlic (note: If you’d like the spinach and basil to hold their green form better, add them toward the end instead). Squeeze the lemon into the lentils, mix, and then fold in the yogurt. Mix again, then slowly pour in the oil, stirring, as you do, to combine. At this point, taste the mixture, and season with salt and 2 good grindings of pepper. Finally, fold the roasted nuts into the dish, and finish with a drizzle of oil. The dish is now ready to serve.
- The lentils and greens will keep in an airtight jar or container in the refrigerator for at least 3 days.
- At the shop/eating venue: For lunch, bring the lentils and greens close to room temperature before serving. They can go on a slice of buttered (and perhaps grilled) bread, or on a lettuce leaf as a salad. Top the lentils with a squeeze of lemon juice, some Parmesan, and a final grind of fresh pepper. Sometimes, if there are any lentils left after lunch, we serve them as a late-day snack, with a little extra salt at the end.