Friday recipe: lentil salad

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has proclaimed that March is Nutrition Month, a campaign “designed to focus attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits,” according to its website. While I think every month should celebrate good nutrition, I’m happy to mark the month by learning more about what I’m eating and whether it’s good for me. I’m also playing “Nutrition Bingo” this month, offered by DMU’s wellness program, in which you get to mark off a bingo card for doing things like eating three servings of fish in a week, drinking 64 ounces of water in a day and taking healthy snacks to work. I found a great recipe for bok choy that would allow me to cross out another bingo card square for trying a new vegetable, but when I got home, I realized the veggie I bought was not bok choy, but rather two large leeks.

Well, DUH.

Note to file: This is not bok choy.

I was put off by the fact that leeks are an allium vegetable, like onions, of which I’m not a big fan (the taste tends to stay with me). Then I learned that leeks have a milder flavor and, like all allium veggies, are highly nutritious and low-calorie, offering a great combination of flavonoids and sulfur-containing nutrients. Eating leeks was apparently meant to be for me, as I coincidentally came across a new book by Grace O, FoodTrients, and her recipe for lentil salad. There’s everything good in this concoction, which is easy to throw together and delightful to look at.

Lentil salad

  • 1 cup of dried green or black lentils
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 chopped leek (white part only)
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 minced shallot
  • Sea salt and ground pepper to taste
  • ½ cup shredded red cabbage
  • ¼ cup diced yellow bell pepper
  • ¼ cup diced red bell pepper
  • ¼ cup diced celery
  • ¼ cup seeded and diced cucumber
  • Red cabbage or lettuce leaves

Place the lentils in a pot of boiling water and cook until al dente, about 20 minutes. They shouldn’t be crunchy, but they shouldn’t be too soft, either. Drain and set aside.

Heat one tablespoon of the olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the leek until opaque and soft, about 5–10 minutes.

To make the vinaigrette, place the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil, red wine vinegar, mustard, shallot, salt and pepper in a container with a tight-fitting lid. Shake well.

In a large bowl, combine the lentils, leek, cabbage, peppers, celery and cucumber. Add half the vinaigrette and toss well. The salad will be slightly warm.

To serve, arrange over red cabbage or lettuce leaves with the remaining vinaigrette on the side.

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