Sunday, August 5, 2012

Magical Lentil Salad

The humble legume has a long association with super-powers: from their protein-and-folate-filled goodness to their capacity to sprout ginormous beanstalks that enable feckless sons of poor widows to score enough treasure to banish poverty (albeit things didn't work out so well for the giant in the latter example), beans are naturally packed with awesomeness. To further illustrate this point, I present my adaptation of the life-changing lentil salad we enjoyed on a recent trip to Portland, prepared and served by our lovely and gracious friend Michelle at an al fresco dinner hosted by herself, Josh, Ruby, Sassy, and Ace on their beautiful back deck. That salad was so damn good that I was on fire to eat it again ASAP, so how happy was I to receive an invitation to the housewarming of some other cool vegan friends within a week of our return from PDX? 

The lady of the house to be warmed suffers from a nightshade allergy, so the original recipe (which calls for black and cayenne peppers) needed to be tweaked, and since I had just scored some za'atar from our amazing local Mediterranean grocery, I decided to switch things up a little. I basically increased the existing seasoning quantities, added a few extra to replace the pepper, and threw in whatever non-nightshade veggies were on hand, including a craptonne of leafy greens from a generous friend's garden. The beauty of this salad is you can use whatever fresh produce you like (lightly steamed asparagus and/or grilled eggplant or peppers come to mind), and you are guaranteed to be met with appreciative yummy noises and requests for the recipe - of course, it goes without saying that if a shot of cayenne or hot sauce floats your boat and causes no discomfort to you or yours, go for it!

Magical Lentil Salad
~ 2 ¼ cups Du Puy (or small green) lentils
~ 4 cups vegetable broth
~ 1 large red onion, diced
~ 1 cup dried currants
~ 1/3 cup capers
~ 3 carrots, grated
~ 3 stalks celery, diced
~ 2 cups chopped, fresh parsley
~ 4-6 cups chopped leafy greens (I used spinach, chard, kale, and arugula)

~ 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
~ 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
~ Juice of one lemon
~ 1 tbsp. each: maple syrup, prepared mustard, pomegranate molasses
~ 1 tbsp. za’atar
~ 2 tsp. ground cumin
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, marjoram, dill, garlic powder
~ 1/2 tsp. each: turmeric, cinnamon, coriander, cardamom
~ 1/4 tsp. each: ground cloves, nutmeg

~ Rinse the lentils and drain. Place in a pot with the vegetable broth, cover, and, bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes; they should be fully cooked but slightly al dente. During the last two minutes of cooking, add the red onion; this will take away that raw sharpness. Drain the lentils and onions into a large colander, rinse with cold water to stop any further cooking, and set aside.
~ In a large bowl, mix the dressing ingredients. Add the currants, capers, and chopped vegetables, followed by the drained lentils. Mix thoroughly to make sure that everything is coated.
~ Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least a few hours; the longer it sits, the better it will be (I made this a day in advance of the party for which it was destined). Serve cold or at room temperature, alone or on a bed of leafy greens, sprinkled with a little extra za'atar.


  1. Looks tasty! I love lentils, and am always looking for new ways to try them. Thanks for enabling my lentil habit :)

  2. The link to your original 'best lentil salad' recipe returned a 404. This link however (to the same blog), works;

    This looks delicious! I may make it for a little vegan meetup tomorrow.