Lentil Salad: a base for whatever you have in your fridge

When I was asked to make something for the garden party the Community Gardens team threw at Providence Garden last week (get all the recipes from the party here!), I chose a lentil salad. It is easily adaptable to many vegetables, so long as you have a good dressing.

 Patrick chopping summer squash with a smile at the River Road Farmstead. 

Patrick chopping summer squash with a smile at the River Road Farmstead. 

Lentils are packed with protein (great vegetarian main dish) and full of other nutrients as well. Plus, they are similar to a grain in that they make a great base for whatever veggies you have on hand.

Greens? Totally. 

Beans? Absolutely! 

Beets? Even beets! Roasted, or thinly sliced with a mandolin.

Patrick, Emily and I make up the Community Garden team. Together we steward our current gardens, help out our garden leadership to create community and keep things ship shape, and build new gardens. 

 Emily hard at work with the beets. They are a colorful vegetable! 

Emily hard at work with the beets. They are a colorful vegetable! 

And we have a lot of fun together, too. 

So here's the recipe, and a few photos of all of us making the food. 

A Recipe Formula: Lentil Salad

Dressing: 

1 teaspoon salt (or to taste) 

1/4 teaspoon pepper (or to taste)  

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup champagne vinegar

1/2 cup basil

Salad: 

2 cups green lentils (they hold up the best, but you could use any type)

4 - 5 cups vegetables -- you want equal parts lentils to vegetables. Lentils basically double in size when cooked, so you end up with 4 - 5 cups lentils, so you want 4 - 5 cups of chopped vegetables. Here's what I used: 

  • 4 - 6 medium beets, peeled and cut to about 1 inch squares
  • snap peas, stemmed and cut twice
  • 4 - 6 medium carrots, peeled into ribbons (watch your fingers doing this!) 
  • 3 mini onions, diced
  • 2 medium zucchini, chopped to bite size
  • 1 cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds) 
  • 4 - 6 oz goat cheese or feta (I used Feta-U-Beta by Lifeline Farm)

Combine dressing ingredients -- let the flavors mingle while you do the rest! 

Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the lentils, cooking them for about 12 minutes (check to see if they are cooked enough for you. You don't want them too soft or they will fall apart with all the stirring at the end).

Chop the vegetables. I roasted the beets, so chopped them first while the oven was warming to 425 degrees. I roasted them in olive oil and salt and pepper for about 20 minutes till they were slightly browned and fully cooked. Even a little wrinkled. 

I toasted the pepitas for about 10 minutes on medium low heat till they started popping and got a golden hue. Then I added a bit of olive oil and salt. One of my favorite additions to any salad. 

 Pepitas are looking nice and toasty!

Pepitas are looking nice and toasty!

Let the hot stuff cool before you add it. I combined everything except the cheese and pepitas -- add those when you're ready to serve or they will get soggy (pepitas) or dyed pink (cheese -- the beets do this to anything white). 

While you can serve the salad right away, it only gets better with time. I let it sit in the dressing overnight and it was better the next day. 

Enjoy! And let us know how you do your lentil salads.