I can’t believe that I haven’t posted this recipe before. With picnic season in full swing here, I suddenly realized that I’ve been keeping this unbelievable salad recipe all to myself! This dish is probably one of the most-cooked meals in my household, and in my opinion, the only lentil salad recipe you will ever need. I love it so much in fact, it’s being served at my wedding in August. Enough said.
This dish was first served to me by my fabulous friend Mia who is a phenomenal cook in her own right, and I love going to her house to eat because she has such a beautiful understanding of how to make healthy food taste amazing. She also purchases very high quality ingredients, and is not afraid to experiment in the kitchen – two qualities I admire very much.
This lentil salad recipe is no exception. The flavours of this dish are totally outstanding, yet unexpected. The ingredient list may seem a little long, but after closer inspection you’ll notice that it is mostly just spices, ten of them to be exact. It is this special combination of flavours that creates a truly remarkable salad that is lip-smackingly tasty and totally addictive.
I should also mention that this salad is the perfect picnic food, as it transports well and is a superb make-ahead meal – ten times tastier the day after! It keeps in the fridge very well for 2-3 days.
The star of the show is the delectable “Du Puy” lentil, sometimes referred to as “the poor man’s caviar”. Du Puy lentils are quite a bit smaller than green or brown lentils, and are revered for their ability to retain their shape after being cooked. Green, brown, and red lentils are great in soups because they are soft, mushy, and tend to fall apart, but those would be less-than-perfect choices for a sophisticated salad. Du Puy lentils work better in salads than in soups and stews because they tend to be a little more robust, and when cooked properly, they will retain just a little tooth. You can find these lovely legumes at any quality grocery store, natural food, or health food store, just make sure they say Du Puy – otherwise they are a French lentil knockoff. Sacré bleu!
Fill up on Folate
Lentils are one of the yummiest sources of folate (also know as folic acid) – just one cup of cooked lentils provides you with almost 90% of your daily recommended intake! And why is folate so important? You’ve probably heard about this vital vitamin in regards to pregnancy, as it is critical in the prevention of birth defects. Folate also functions to support red blood cell production and help prevent anemia, allows nerves to function properly, helps prevent osteoporosis-related bone fractures, and helps prevent dementias including Alzheimer’s disease.
Folate received its name from the Latin word folium, meaning “foliage”, so it’s not wonder that other excellent sources of folate are dark leafy greens (yum, your favorite!) – kale, romaine lettuce, spinach, asparagus, turnip greens, beet greens, mustard greens, parsley, and collards to name a few. This may explain why North American diets seem to be on the deficient end of things when it comes to this B-vitamin, as folic acid is available from fresh, unprocessed food. The good news is it is easily absorbed, used, and stored by the body. Folic acid is also manufactured by intestinal bacteria (remember those probiotics?), so if colon flora is healthy, we have another good source of folic acid.
The Best Lentil Salad, Ever
2 ¼ cups (1 lb.) Du Puy lentils
1 medium red onion, diced
1 cup dried currants (you could also use raisins or other dried fruit)
1/3 cup capers
1/3 cup cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 Tbsp. strong mustard
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
½ tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
¼ tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
Fresh herbs: flat-leaf parsley, cilantro, basil
Crispy seasonal veggies
1. Rinse lentils well, drain. Place in a pot and cover with a 3-4 inches of water, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer. Check lentils for doneness after 15 minutes, but they should take about 20 minutes in total. You will know they are cooked if they still retain a slight tooth – al dente! Overcooking the lentils is the death of this dish. Be careful!
2. While the lentils are simmering, make the dressing by placing all ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake vigorously to combine.
3. Finely dice red onion – the salad is best if all the ingredients are about the same size. If using raisins, chop them roughly to make them a bit smaller, and do the same with the capers if they are large.
4. When the lentils are cooked, remove from heat, drain and place under cold running water to stop the cooking process. Once cooled slightly but still a little warm, place lentils in a large serving bowl and toss with dressing. Add other onion, capers, and currants. If using other add-ins such as herbs, greens, or cheese, wait until just before serving. Otherwise, this salad can hang out in the fridge for a couple days.