It’s only natural that as the temperature increases, so too does my desire for salad. Leafy green versions are a staple for lunch, but at dinnertime, I want something with a bit more heft — filling enough to keep me full all night and power me through my workout the next morning.
Though grains are a great way to bulk up a salad (whether you use quinoa, farro, barley, or even rice), I’ve gotten really into lentils recently. They’re legumes (like peas, beans and peanuts), and are a great source of protein, fiber, iron and other nutrients. Plus, dried lentils are super cheap and can sit in your pantry forever, or at least until you decide to throw them into a salad.
There are a wide variety of lentils: yellow, green, black, red, orange. They’re a staple of Indian cuisine, and our pantry was full of them — a rainbow of little beads all packed in glass jars on the shelf. I use humble brown ones here, since they’re the easiest to find (Goya sells a 1-pound bag for $1.50). I undercooked them a little, so that they retained a bit of their bite and didn’t become mushy in the salad.
While they did their thing on the stove, I threw a big batch of summer vegetables on a baking sheet. Corn is just starting to make its way into markets, and I love (love love) charred little niblets of corn. A few cherry tomatoes, slices of red onion, a bell pepper — everything softens and caramelizes just a touch in the heat of the oven. Cubes of smoked gouda add a bit of meaty creaminess to round out the meal.
You could double or triple this recipe for a potluck or picnic, and it’s great for work lunches. It’s also great on a blah Monday night with a cold glass of Pinot Greeg and a Jon Snow-heavy episode of Game of Thrones. (I’ll let you guess how many times I’ve watched that video today. May or may not be upwards of 1,938.)
Summer Lentil Salad
Makes 4 servings
– 1 cup brown lentils
– 1 large bay leaf
– 1 pint cherry tomatoes
– 1 ear corn, shucked and kernels cut off the cob
– 1 bell pepper, diced into 1-inch pieces
– 1 small red onion, chopped into 1-inch-thick slices
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
– 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
– 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
– salt and pepper, to taste
– 4 ounces smoked gouda, cut into 1-inch cubes (optional)
1) In a large pot, add the lentils, bay leaf and two cups of water. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 20 minutes, until the lentils are just tender. Drain and set aside to cool completely.
2) While the lentils are cooking: preheat the oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or tin foil. On the baking sheet, toss together the tomatoes, corn, peppers, onions, olive oil, balsamic, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper. Roast for 20-25 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked and beginning to char. Set aside to cool.
3) Once the lentils and vegetables are cooled, stir them together, adding a splash of balsamic if necessary. Add the smoked gouda (if using) and serve either at room temperature or cold.