As the weather warms, I spend a lot of time outside. My garden is flanked by the trailing tendrils of cantaloupe and watermelon on one side, and a uniform row of ten rhubarb plants on the other. The raised beds in between burst with any number of vegetables, including tomatoes, peppers, salad greens, and 200 sets of onions.
After weeks of tending, harvesting, and then cleaning the fruits of my labor, I’m ready to prepare them in the simplest of ways. I don’t want to worry about food; I want to enjoy a meal with the people I’m feeding.
Besides, more often than not, fresh produce needs little more than a vinaigrette and a good toss to turn it into something for the table.
LENTILS + SUMMER VEGGIES = SUMMER SALAD TEMPLATE
Out of habit (or maybe necessity), I usually cook large batches of lentils, grains, or beans on the weekend, and then combine them with various vegetables to enjoy throughout the week.
Loaded with tomatoes, onions, peppers, arugula and lentils, this salad is the byproduct of one of those weekly assembly jobs.
THE BEST LENTILS FOR LENTIL SALAD
Lentils are a great way to add texture, nutrition, and body to summer salads. I prefer to use French Puy or Italian Castelluccio lentils because they are both tender, but keep their shape, which makes them ideal to use in salads like this one.
I can usually find them at Whole Foods or in specialty grocery stores. You can use other lentils as well; just watch them carefully when you cook because they can go from uncooked to mush in a minute—especially red lentils.
WAYS TO SERVE THIS LENTIL SALAD
Lentil salads are perfect to take to a picnic, pack in lunches for summer excursions, or to bring to a cookout. This particular salad is dairy-free, so it can sit out for a few hours without you worrying about it spoiling.
This salad can also be made a day or two in advance, but wait to add the arugula and tomatoes until the day you plan to serve the salad. The tender greens bruise easily and look (and taste) best when they haven’t been sitting for too long, and the tomatoes can get mealy in the fridge.
It’s best served at room temperature. It makes a great side dish with fish, chicken, or a frittata. It’s also delicious on its own as a light lunch.
MORE EASY SUMMER SALAD RECIPES
Lentil Salad with Summer Vegetables Recipe
Recipe Tester Note: Cucumber makes a fantastic addition to this summer salad!
For the salad
- 1 cup Puy lentils
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 bay leaf
- Handful of parsley stems, tied together with a string
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 3 stalks celery, diced small
- 1 yellow pepper, diced
- 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/4 cup minced red onion
- 1 cup baby arugula
For the vinaigrette
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh minced parsley
- Zest from 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon Morton kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon minced shallots
- Salt and pepper to taste
1 Cook the lentils: In a medium pot combine lentils, smashed garlic cloves, bay leaf, a handful of parsley stems. Add enough water to cover the lentils by 1 1/2 to 2 inches (about 2 1/2 cups).
Bring to a simmer and cook uncovered for about 25 minutes. The exact time will vary based on how dry the lentils are. When you get about 10 minutes out from the finished cooking time, start sampling the lentils to check for doneness—when cooked, they should be tender, but still intact. Continue sampling every 5 minutes until they’re ready.
When the lentils are done, drain them and discard the bay leaf, garlic, and parsley stems.
2 While the lentils cook, make the vinaigrette In a large bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, parsley, lemon zest, salt, oregano, sugar, and shallots.
3 Mix the hot lentils with the vinaigrette: Add the hot lentils to the vinaigrette, and stir to coat. By combining the vinaigrette with the lentils while they are still hot, the lentils will absorb more of the flavor from the vinaigrette making the salad extra tasty. Allow to cool.
4 Assemble the salad: Add the prepared vegetables and arugula. If your arugula is large, stack it and slice it into thick, short ribbons before adding it to the salad. Stir to combine. Add more salt and pepper to taste and finish with a drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil.
Serve room temperature or cold, as a vegetarian meal, or alongside a sandwich, frittata, chicken, or fish. This salad is best eaten the day it’s made.
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