Lately all I’ve been craving is “cookies and cake and junk & stuff” (a favorite line from Will Smith in Men in Black). But cookies only last so long on the counter, and even longer on parts of my body, so it was time to break out the good stuff: lentils and salads, more specifically, lentil salad with roasted red pepper dressing.
The family that eats lentils together
Growing up, my family ate lentils pretty often, mostly in the winter, and always in the form of soups (try my recipe for lentil soup with veggies and pasta). When I told my mom I was making lentil salad with roasted red pepper dressing, she was intrigued. She wasn’t sure how I was going to incorporate lentils into a salad. I explained my recipe to her, and she was clearly interested since I got a call from her later in the day anxious to know how it turned out.
Brown lentils are easy to cook and I usually always have them in the house. I was surprised when I opened the door to my crammed cupboard (and nothing fell out) to find only red lentils tucked waaaay back in the corner of the shelf. Even though I’d never cooked red lentils before, I was confident they’d be great in this recipe. From what I read after the fact, red lentils tend to get mushy when you cook them (they do). You’ve been advised.
When I got my hands on some brown lentils, I got nervous about cooking them and started to second-guess myself. Maybe lentils are hard to cook? When was the last time I made them? What should I do now! For reassurance, I consulted The Kitchn for a fool-proof method to cook brown lentils. I’m glad I did, because their tutorial not only gave me my lentil-cooking confidence back, but I learned about holding off on adding salt to the lentils until after they’re cooked. Glad I double-checked! My lentil salad with roasted red pepper dressing turned out great! Nice firm lentils for a great cold salad. The cookies and cake and junk & stuff have been put off…for now.
Note: Although this recipe is labeled as gluten free, if you follow a gluten-free diet, you should always carefully read the ingredient labels of all food and food products you use to ensure they are also gluten free.
Recipe for Lentil Salad with Roasted Red Pepper Dressing
For the dressing
- 3 roasted red peppers packed in oil, rough chopped
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
For the salad
- 1 cup dried brown lentils
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 1/4 cup diced white onion
- 1/3 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
- 2 ounces crumbled feta cheese
- 6 ounces mixed salad greens
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
- Combine all the dressing ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Rinse and sort your lentils, picking out any irregular lentils, then add them to a saucepan with two cups of water.
- Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat and cook, uncovered, over a low simmer (there should be only a few small bubbles in the water), for about 20 minutes. You may need to add more water while your lentils cook. Add only enough water to keep the lentils barely covered.
- When cooked (no longer hard), drain the lentils then return them to the saucepan (not on the heat). Season them with the salt, ground black pepper, and fresh thyme.
- Allow the lentils to cool to room temperature, then add the celery and onion and mix well.
- Add about 1/4 cup of the roasted red pepper dressing to the lentils. Reserve the extra dressing for individual servings. Add the walnuts to the lentils and mix well.
- Place salad greens in individual bowls, and top with the lentil salad.
- Sprinkle with the feta cheese just before serving.