I could eat this salad every day! It has all the elements I love in a salad: something crunchy (pine nuts and red onions), something salty and tangy (sherry vinaigrette and feta cheese), something sweet (dried currants), and some tasty greens (peppery arugula).
It makes a great lunch all by itself when you're in the mood for a salad. It also pairs well with anything coming off the grill or with simple roast chicken if you want to serve it for dinner.
I’ve included a Middle Eastern spice, perhaps unfamiliar, in the dressing: ground sumac. Don’t worry! It’s totally optional and the recipe is just as delicious without it. I've been experimenting with spices from my local Middle Eastern market, and I wanted to share this one with you in case you stumble upon it.
Ground sumac is dried and ground from the red berries that ripen in clusters on sumac bushes in the fall. The spice has a clean, bright, ultra-tart lemony flavor and adds a puckery punch when sprinkled on toasted pita chips, over hummus, or as with this recipe, into a vinaigrette for a salad.
When buying lentils for this recipe, smaller varieties, like French green lentils, are the best choice. They hold their shape without becoming mushy, look pretty, and have a slightly chewy texture.
One other trick worth mentioning is to add the onions to the lentils while they are hot. This tames their harsh bite while keeping their crisp texture.
Lentil Salad with Arugula and Feta
- For the dressing:
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, coarsely crushed in a mortar or with a rolling pin (or 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander)
- 1 teaspoon ground sumac (optional), plus more for garnish
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Fresh black pepper
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- For the salad:
- 1 cup small dried lentils, such as French green lentils
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup dried currants
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 bunches (about 6 cups) arugula
- 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 3 ounces (about 2/3 cup) feta cheese, crumbled
Make the dressing:
In a bowl, whisk the vinegar, coriander and sumac (if using) with 1/8 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of fresh black pepper. Gradually whisk in the oil. Taste, and add more salt and pepper, if you like.
Cook the lentils:
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the lentils. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender but still hold their shape.
While the lentils cook, toast the pine nuts:
In a dry skillet over medium heat, stir the pine nuts constantly for 2 to 3 minutes, or until they are lightly browned. Transfer them immediately to a plate to keep them from burning.
Season the lentils and tame the onions:
When the lentils are done cooking, drain them into a colander and transfer to a small bowl. While the lentils are still hot, stir in the onions and 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette. Let cool until it's a warm room temperature (no longer piping hot).
(To speed up the cooling, you can spread the lentils and onions out on a plate.)
Assemble the salad:
In a salad bowl, toss the arugula with the currants, cilantro, and remaining vinaigrette. Pile the lentils over the salad and top with the cherry tomatoes, feta, and toasted pine nuts. Sprinkle with more sumac, if you like.