Lentil Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette

I had a party to go to a couple of weeks ago, and wanted to bring something healthy to snack on but really didn’t feel like going to the store. I dug around in my pantry and refrigerator and decided that I could throw something together with what I had on-hand. When it got to the dressing, I had to tinker a bit because I wasn’t shooting for a really tart vinaigrette. Instead, I wanted a better balance between sweet and tart. I started by adding a bit of honey, but it was still missing something. Since I had used apple cider vinegar, I hit on the idea of adding fresh apple cider (which I always have in my fridge this time of year). It turns out that was just what it needed. I took the salad to the party and it was gone by the end of the night.

I was in a hurry and didn’t bother measuring out ingredients, but it turned out so well that this week I did my best to recreate the recipe and keep track of proportions – at least for the dressing. Lentils are main feature of this recipe – all of the other vegetables were things that I had on-hand from my local CSA veggie box. Feel free to add whatever you like. I opted for crisp, firm vegetables to offset the more tender chewy lentils, but that’s purely a matter of taste.

For the green beans, I thought about blanching them, but I’ve not yet mastered finding just the right cooking time so that they are still nice and crisp. Instead, I heated just a bit of garlic-infused olive oil in a nonstick skillet, then cooked the beans over high-heat stirring and tossing frequently until they were browned in spots. This turned out perfectly – they were cooked and had a nice garlicky flavor, but still very crisp (and stayed crisp even after a few days in the fridge). The other vegetables – red bell pepper and baby turnips (the white chunks in the photo) – I used raw.  I also toasted pepitas in a dry non-stick skillet to add extra crunch and flavor to the salad.

Combine in a medium sauce-pan:

  • 2 cups green lentils
  • 6 cups salted water

Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 30 minutes until the lentils are tender. Be careful not to overcook them because you want the lentils to hold their shape. I usually start checking after about 20 minutes and then keep a close eye on them until they are ready. Drain well and put in a large bowl.

In the meantime prepare the dressing:

  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar (preferably unfiltered)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup fresh apple cider (preferably unfiltered)
  • 1.5 tsp coarse-ground mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. honey (preferably local)
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin

Toss the lentils with the dressing while the lentils are still warm and allow it to sit to absorb the dressing.  Add to this your choice of mixed vegetables and other ingredients to your taste. I used:

  • 1/4 pound local green beans – sautéed over high heat in garlic infused olive oil (see my comments above)
  • 1/2 pound baby turnips, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 1/4 inch dice
  • 1/2 cup toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

This salad keeps well in the refrigerator for up to several days – I think it tastes a little better after sitting for at least several hours so that the flavors have a chance to combine.

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