my favorite lentil salad

For this summer, I’m keeping it light and fresh with a vegan lentil salad. Made from red lentils, celery, scallions, cucumber, mint and lemon juice topped off with olive oil.

My favorite lentil salad is a lebanese lentil salad. It has a mixture of red, green, and brown lentils with vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes, and parsley.

  • 2 1/2 cups tiny green, brown, or black lentils, cooked and chilled [see note at end]
  • 1 entire 28-ounce tomato can
  • 1 small or 1/2 big white onion, diced
  • 1 to 2 chopped fresh jalapeos, to taste
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped, divided
  • 1 tsp. salt (kosher)
  • black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 lime, juiced, plus more limes to taste
  • 1 avocado, chopped, big and firm
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered (approximately a 12-ounce package)
  • to taste hot sauce
  • To serve, tortilla chips (optional)

To capture juices, place a strainer over a basin and pour the can of tomatoes over it. If the tomatoes seem to be full (i.e. entire and undamaged), gently squeeze them to release extra juice.

Place the onion, jalapeo, and garlic in a blender or food processor [see Note at end] and pulse in short bursts until the onion, jalapeo, and garlic are finely chopped. Run the machine with two-thirds of a cup of cilantro, drained tomatoes, salt, and the juice of one lime until the tomatoes are well-chopped but not completely smooth. If the salsa is too thick to scoop up with chips, I’ll add a spoonful at a time of the leftover tomato juices, but we don’t want it to be too thin to coat this lentil salad. Adjust seasoning to taste, adding salt, pepper, and more lime juice if required to flavor the lentils.

In a large mixing basin, combine the lentils. If they’re from a vacuum-pack, break apart clumps with your fingertips. (I find that using a spoon or fork does too much harm to the lentils.) Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the tomato mixture with the lentils. Taste and adjust the amount of salsa as needed; I normally use 2 cups. Season to taste with salt and black pepper, and if required, additional lime juice. Stir in the avocado, tomatoes, and saved cilantro until everything is well combined. If desired, serve with spicy sauce and tortilla chips.

Refrigerate leftovers for up to 5 days.

Notes:

  • Let’s talk about lentils: The best kind to use in salads are those that do not fall apart when cooked. My favorites are small green (often sold as lentils du Puy), small brown lentils (sometimes called castelluccio), or even black lentils. Cook them in salted water according to their package directions, or whatever your favorite way to cook lentils is, then cool them before using. Here I’m using one 17.6-ounce package of Trader Joe’s Steamed & Fully Cooked Lentils, a truly perfect product.
  • If you’re making the salsa using an immersion or standard (not high-powered like a Vitamix) blender rather of a food processor, start with finely chopped onion, garlic, and jalapeo. Roughly chopped is OK as indicated, assuming the machine would mulch it more for us.
  • Why are we cooking a complete batch of your salsa when we are only going to use half of it, Deb? Because I want you to be able to add more to your liking and because I love having extra — for tacos, eggs, and chips. You could cut the tomatoes and other salsa components in half, but I don’t want you to run out if you need more.
  • When I make the salad with the intention of having leftovers for future lunches, I generally leave the avocado out to avoid it becoming mushy or stained in the fridge. [It’s still perfectly safe to eat, but it’s no longer as adorable.] Instead, I’ll sprinkle some on top every time I eat it.

The “lentil salad dressing” is my favorite lentil salad. The ingredients are very simple, and it’s made in a matter of minutes. It tastes so good with the right amount of salt, pepper, and olive oil.

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