Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Lemony Lentil Salad

I love lentils.

Maybe that's a weird thing to say about this little legume. But it's true. I like the taste and the funny texture.

It's rare to find a food that's cheap, filling, healthy, and tasty, but lentils are all of those.

Dried lentils, like dried beans, are incredibly inexpensive, but they don't require soaking or long cooking times the way their bigger cousins do. So while I have a balance of cheap dried beans and more expensive, convenient canned beans in my pantry, with lentils I just buy dried.

I confess I've been in a bit of a rut cooking lentils, however. I add them to soups and stews to thicken them up, make them more filling and meaty without actually adding more meat. But I rarely do anything else with them.

At five o'clock yesterday afternoon, I had no meat defrosted, the thermometer read100 degrees, and a hungry DDH who needed leftovers for lunch the next day.

A quick perusal of the internets yielded an idea or two, which led to this: a summery cool vegetarian meal that even the DDH enjoyed.

Lemony Lentil Salad.
I told you I love lentils.

Lemony Lentil Salad

Lentils roughly double in volume when cooked. I wanted about three cups cooked lentils, so I measured out 1 1/2 cups dried lentils. This would be an easy recipe to double (or halve) to serve to a crowd (or just yourself).

Put your lentils in a strainer and rinse with hot water. Paw through them and check for little stones or other debris. Alternatively, put the lentils in a bowl, cover with hot water, and drain. The latter method will get them cleaner; the former is quicker and uses fewer dishes.

Rinsing--check for stones and grit.
Put the lentils in an appropriately sized pot and add twice as much water as you did lentils. So for 1 1/2 cups lentils, add 3 cups water. Warm or hot water is better.

You should have way more water than in this picture. I
just barely covered the lentils and had to add more water
almost immediately.
Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer until done. The lentils will dramatically increase in volume, so add more water if you need to. It will take 15-45 minutes for your lentils to cook, depending on how old and dry they are, how high you keep the heat, etc.

See how much the lentils have risen?
While the lentils are cooking, mix up your dressing.

In a small bowl or a handy shaker thing like I have, add 1/3 cup lemon juice (a bit more than one lemon, unless your lemon is pretty big and juicy). (Tip: Squeeze two (or more) lemons, measure out the juice you need, and pour the rest into an ice cube tray. Freeze and pop out into a labeled bag; pull out whenever you need fresh lemon juice. The lemon juice I'm using is actually frozen leftover lemon juice rather than true fresh juice.)

Lemon juice.
Several sprigs fresh dill or 1+ teaspoon dried dill. Just add some, taste, and add more if necessary.

Dill from the garden.
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard. Or brown mustard of your choice. Or yellow mustard, if you must. Or even some mustard seed or dried mustard, if you're out of the usual condiment.

1/4 teaspoon salt. Add more to taste.

Black pepper to taste.

Mustard, salt, pepper.
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil. (Read instructions below for how to add it to your dressing mixture!)

Olive oil.
Now. If you're using a dressing shaker, you can just layer everything in there and shake vigorously for thirty seconds. If you're using a bowl, you'll want to s l o w l y add the olive oil while constantly whisking the mixture with a fork or whisk. You want your oil and acid to emulsify and turn creamy, not separate into lemon juice with a grease slick.

Pretty layers.

Tasty emulsion.
Chop any vegetables you'd like to add to your salad: tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, summer squash, blanched green beans, steamed broccoli...whatever you have lying around that you think would be tasty.

At some point in here your lentils will finish cooking. Drain the lentils and put into a large bowl.

Add your vegetables. I had a nice juicy red tomato

Summer tomatoes for the win.
and a white onion.

Pour on your dressing and stir to combine.

Mix well. Some will pool at the bottom, but you want
to make sure everything is coated.
Serve your lentil salad on top of lettuce, rice, or pasta--or all by itself! This would also make a nice accompaniment to a salmon filet or some other fish.

Delicious and nutritious!
It occurs to me that some parmesan cheese grated on top of that would be divine.

We ate it room temperature last night and chilled for lunch today. I loved it. So good.

And the DDH? We all know that vegetarian recipes have to garner his approval if I want to make them again for general consumption. Luckily, he likes lentils (though not raw onion, oops), and lentils are filling and chewy enough to make up for meat. He ate a big bowl and expressed his approval (except for the raw onions). Success!


  1. I'm like you: I only knew of a handful of things to do with lentils, mostly adding them to recipes as cheap fillers. But this sounds great! I'll have to try it! I'm always thrilled when a vegetarian meal works out. It's hard to find something that's still satisfying!

    1. Especially for the DDH; he'll gamely eat just about anything I concoct, but he says he just doesn't feel like he's eaten a meal or gets full unless there's meat. This seemed to work, though. He said it made a really good lunch, heated up and then put on cold lettuce; I ate it cold on the lettuce and liked. So yay!



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