Lentil Salad with Roasted Beets

MAKES 4 SERVINGS • PREP TIME: 20 minutes • COOK TIME: 1 hour

Back in the days when I was a kitchen serf, I received a great piece of culinary advice from a cook. She said to take a food you wanted to work with and imagine preparing it thirty different ways. That’s a mental exercise that has served me well over the years, because certain foods are so valuable from a health perspective that they need to show up time and again in new and interesting forms. So it is with lentils. They’re so versatile, and they act as a great backdrop for salads and side dishes. In this recipe, they’re the foundation for a wonderful blend of citrus and crunch, with fennel, sweet roasted beets, and walnuts all gleefully playing together in the sandbox. Now I just have to come up with twenty-nine more lentil combinations to satisfy that cook.

2 beets
1 cup dried lentils, preferably Le Puy green lentils, rinsed well
1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick, or 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup Toasted Cumin Citrus Vinaigrette
Sea salt
1 cup diced fennel
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Wrap the beets in parchment paper, then in foil, and roast for 30 minutes to 1 hour (depending on their size), until tender and fragrant. Remove from the oven and, when they are cool enough, peel and cut into small cubes. 

Combine the lentils, garlic, bay leaf, and cinnamon in a saucepan and cover with water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, then cover, lower the heat, and simmer until the lentils are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain the lentils thoroughly and discard the garlic clove, bay leaf, and cinnamon stick. 

Toss the lentils with half the vinaigrette and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and let it rest a few minutes. Then add the fennel, beets, and remaining dressing. Stir in the mint and parsley, walnuts, and a teaspoon of lemon juice. Taste; you may want to add another pinch of salt, a few grinds of black pepper, or a bit more lemon juice. Serve. 

VARIATION: This salad can also be heated and served over arugula or spinach. The heat will gently wilt the greens. 

COOK'S NOTE: You don’t have to presoak lentils, but rinse them well in a bowl of cold water, using your hands to swish them around. Drain and repeat until the water is clear. Don’t boil lentils, which makes them mushy and causes them to fall apart. Let them simmer for a nice, tender texture.

Reprinted with permission from The Healthy Mind Cookbook Copyright © 2015 by Rebecca Katz with Mat Edelson, Ten Speed Press, a division of the Crown Publishing Group, Berkeley, CA.