By Lindsay Keach Bronstein, RD
I learned this recipe while I was living in France for a summer during high-school. My “French mother” made this salad often for large family lunches, and I snuck back to the kitchen to help (and learn her secrets!). By the end of my stay there, I was the designated salad dressing maker, and would get a call each night when it was time to “faire la vinaigrette!”
If you are pressed for time, this salad can be made in minutes using pre-cooked lentils, available at both Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s in the refrigerated section. This is a terrific “make ahead for the week” dish, and can be the base for a hearty vegetarian lunch or eaten stand-alone as a well-balanced snack or side. Lentils are pretty much a perfect food: quick cooking, satisfying, and packed with heart-healthy fiber and plant protein.
I recommend making extra vinaigrette to keep in a jar in the pantry – it’s great on salad, and also on another one of my favorite spring salads, Salade de carottes rapees, which is basically just grated carrots with this vinaigrette and chopped fresh dill.
1 cup French, Le Puy, or Beluga lentils
1 Bay leaf
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon tarragon or white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon Dijon or grainy mustard
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/3 cup red onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
- Sift through lentils to make sure there aren’t any small stones.
- Place in heavy bottomed pot and cover with cool water (add a large pinch of kosher salt and a bay leaf for extra flavor).
- Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until they are tender. Be careful not to overcook, as you want them to be firm not mushy. Drain and set aside to cool slightly. Remove Bay leaf.
- Make a simple vinaigrette by combining 3 parts olive oil, 1 part vinegar, mustard, salt and freshly ground pepper. You can either make this in a jar and shake to emulsify, or slowly pour the vinegar into the oil while whisking with a fork or small whisk.
- Place lentils in a large bowl and toss with vinaigrette, red onion and parsley. It’s okay if the lentils are still warm. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- This salad is best if it sits for a few hours to let the flavors combine.
- Add a handful of toasted walnuts or hazelnuts
- Sprinkle with goat cheese or feta
- Add a couple of handfuls of spinach, arugula, or baby kale
- Add chopped roasted vegetables like carrots, parsnip, or butternut squash
Nutrition Information: 198 calories; 9 grams fat, 0 grams saturated fat; 8 grams protein; 21 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fiber, 0 grams sugar, 137 mg sodium.
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