summer staple: marinated lentil salad

lentil salad

How’s your week going?  Currently we (Joel) are driving to the beach with a carload of kids in the back and tons of snacks.  It’s 102 in our town and we’re escaping to the coast where it’s a cool 66 for a day of exploring tide pools and soaking up the salty air.

What we have packed for food: homemade popcorn in our simple ecocoloy cloth bag, carrots/cucumber/celery, dates, pb+j sammies for the kids + marinated lentil salad with eggplant and zucchini for me + J.  Packed in our To Go Ware tiffin, and a few spoons and cloth napkins to avoid bringing any plastic to the beach.

I’ve made the marinated lentil salad 3 times so far this month and it’s a great and delicious way to make a big batch of filling food that can last in the fridge a few days and be easily grabbed for lunches or to supplement dinner without turning on the stove again.  It also tastes better and better after sitting in the fridge.

As always, I encourage you to use your own variations based on what you like or have.  This is really more of a rough recipe.  Instead of lentils, try chickpeas, pasta, quinoa, or potatoes.  Instead of fennel seeds and basil, try cilantro and cumin.  Try green beans or roasted bell peppers or corn instead of the zucchini and eggplants.  I’ve also used thin slices of raw zucchini instead of sautéing it.  Mostly I just make the lentil base and toss in whatever needs to be used up.

When it’s time to pull out a portion for lunch, I put it in my bowl or on the go container and sprinkle a bit more vinegar and salt it or pack a lemon wedge with it.  You can take a big amount as is or use a small amount and then bulk it up with fresh extras like avocado, thick wedges of tomato, thin sliced carrot, grated beets, spinach, kale, lettuce etc.

lentil salad lunch

for lunch- I added sliced carrots, orange garden tomatoes and a drizzle of balsamic on top.  The jar is from Weck and I like it because the mouth is wide enough to eat out of easily.

I hope you love this recipe as much as we do and that it serves you well this summer.  I’d love to see what variations you guys enjoy!

marinated lentil salad

2 cups lentils (I prefer french or beluga)
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon fresh chopped oregano or use 1/2 tsp dried
1 small shallot or a bit of red onion, minced
olive oil to taste, use up to 1/4 cup
salt and black pepper to taste
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
2-3 medium zucchini, sliced into thin rounds
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
3 long and thin (Japanese variety) eggplant, sliced on the diagonal into 1/4 inch thick slices
1/2 a bunch of basil, chopped
1/2 a bunch of parsley, chopped

Cover the lentils with water (enough to cover by a few inches) and some salt.  Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and let it simmer, setting the timer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in the bottom of a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, oregano, shallot, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Taste and adjust as needed.  Chop up the tomatoes and add them in.  Slice the zucchini and eggplant and set aside.

At this point the timer should be going off.  Check the lentils and see if they’re tender.  If not, keep cooking and checking, up to 10 more minutes depending on the lentil.  When they’re tender but not mushy, drain them and add them to the bowl with the tomatoes and vinaigrette.

Heat up a drizzle of oil and the fennel seeds in a sauté pan (or use water if you avoid oil) and when hot, add in the zucchini.  Let sear without stirring for a couple minutes to get a little browning.  While that’s browning, arrange the eggplant on a lined baking sheet in a way that they will all be under the broiler once in the oven.

Stir the zucchini around and mix in the red pepper flakes.  Keep cooking and stirring until tender.  When tender, stir through the garlic and let cook another minute.  Add to the lentil bowl.

Turn on the broil setting of your oven.  Rub the eggplant slices with a touch of olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Place under the broiler and let cook until browned, about 5-7 minutes.  Flip over and return to broiler, cooking about 5-7 more minutes.  Remove from oven and sprinkle some red wine vinegar over and let sit a minute.  Add to bowl with the lentils.  Mix through.

Add in the herbs and mix again.  Taste and adjust with more vinegar, salt, chili flakes, or garlic as needed.

Keeps well in the fridge about 4 days, a few more days if you omit the basil/parsley and add fresh as you eat it.

quick variation:  omit fennel seeds.  Reduce garlic to 2 cloves, crushed and add to the dressing.  Add the pepper flakes to the dressing too.  Instead of cooking the zucchini, slice it paper thin with a mandolin into the bowl.  Or sub cucumber.  Omit eggplant.  Sub in some rough chopped jarred (or from the olive bar) marinated artichoke hearts and/or marinated broiled red peppers.