Citrusy Red Lentil Salad

red-lentil-saladThe last couple of days have finally felt like Spring in New York: bright sunshine, temps approaching 60 degrees F, tiny, pale green buds popping up on the trees and bright green new growth in our tiny patches of “lawn.” Amazingly enough, this run of warm, sunny weather is supposed to continue right through the weekend and into next week: could it be that Spring is actually here? (I wouldn’t lay bets that we’ve seen the last of this winter’s snow, but: ever hopeful).

While yesterday I cooked up a big pot of heirloom beans with bacon & sage, today required something lighter, sunnier, springier. I pulled every spring-ish vegetable I had out of the fridge: crisp pink radishes, pale, crunch celery hearts, bright green parsley. I rounded up a couple of tiny, new season red onions and I chased down the last of winter’s citrus: some Cara Cara oranges, a couple of clementines, and one fat lime. And to bring all of the early spring goodness together? Red lentils.

Do you know that I’ve never cooked lentils before? Not red ones, not brown, not even the fancy French greens. I don’t really know why: I guess they just haven’t been on my radar screen. (That or one too many leaden, earnestly virtuous vegetarian lentil soups in the ’70s.) But spring is the season of adventures, of out with the old and in with the new. So when I saw these lovely, orangey lentils at the market in Ridgefield last week, I thought, “Why not?” And I could hardly have fared better for my virgin lentil outing: this salad is a knockout.

Bright and citrusy, crunchy and crisp, mellow yellow lentils and just the right hint of grassy, peppery parsley: it all worked beautifully. Tai and I had two bowls each for lunch. If you’ve got some tag ends of citrus rolling around the crisper drawer and a stash of red lentils, you could do worse: this salad is springtime in a bowl. Maybe if we all celebrate Spring this weekend, she’ll decide to stick around?

red-lentil-saladCitrusy Red Lentil Salad

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup red lentils, well rinsed in cold water
  • 1 orange
  • 2 clementines
  • 1 large lime
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 large radishes, scrubbed, trimmed, halved and sliced into thin moons
  • 3 to 4 center rib celery stalks, with leaves, thinly sliced
  • 1 small red onion, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 1 medium bunch parsley, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • olive oil
  • extra citrus for serving

METHODS

  1. Prepare a large bowl of ice water and set it near the stove. In a medium saucepan, bring a quart of water to a full boil. Add 1/2 tsp salt and rinsed lentils. Return to a boil, then boil gently, partially covered, until lentils are al dente (about 6 – 7 minutes) taking care not to overcook. Strain lentils, then plunge into the ice bath to cool. Set aside.
  2. Zest and suprême the orange. Suprême the clementines. Zest and juice the lime.
  3. In a large bowl, combine orange zest, orange & clementine sections, lime zest and juice and lemon juice. Squeeze the leftover orange & clementine membranes over the bowl to catch any juice. Add the radishes, celery + leaves, onion and parsley. Season with salt & pepper. Toss.
  4. Drain the lentils. Shake them vigorously and toss, allowing them to fluff and draining away as much water as possible. Add to the bowl with the vegetables, folding gently to mix. Lastly, add a generous pour of olive oil: toss gently, taste, and adjust oil, salt or pepper. Don’t be afraid to use a generous hand with the olive oil: you’ve added a lot of citrus juice. Serve cold or at room temperature, with extra citrus wedges for spritzing.

Serves 4.

red-lentil-saladOPTIONS

  1. As I was enjoying this for lunch, I thought a thinly slivered red chile would be perfect. Feel free to toss one into the mix.
  2. You can use any mix of citrus you happen to have on hand, but I do recommend including a variety: mix it up.
  3. If you’re not a lentil person, substitute couscous, orzo, millet, wheat berries: many grains or legumes would work.

STORE

Best eaten fresh.

SEASON

Spring.

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20 comments

  1. May I suggest that you try black French lentils. They are the most delicious legume I have ever tasted! I think I purchased them at Wild Oats. I can’t remember what recipe I used but they were outstanding. Enjoy! Polly

  2. Sam

    Oh my goodness I’d never have thought to put citrus and lentils together but this looks magnificent ! Your photos are lovely too, what do you shoot on?

    • Hi Sam,

      Thanks so much! My photography has come a long way, which you can see if you look back at some of the earliest posts. Most of the images on the site were taken with an entry-level Canon Revel (XSi) and the Plastic Fantastic, Canon’s 50mm f1.8 lens. For Christmas, my husband got me a Canon 40D (used on eBay), so I’ve been slowly learning the ins & outs of the new body. Some day, I’ll save my pennies and buy a big-girl lens: until then, I’ve still got plenty of room to improve! :)

  3. I like that your lentil virginity brought creativity to the kitchen. Because red lentils turn to mush when cooked, I usually use them only in soups, stews and dals. For salads, I pick French du puy green lentils and black beluga. Red lentils have got to be the lentil anomaly for their mushiness but you just showed how delicious they are no matter what you throw at them. :-)

    • The red lentils did get much softer than I expected, and in fact, I probably over-cooked mine a bit. But the ice bath definitely helps to keep them firm, and they maintained a nice texture in the salad. And a legume that cooks up in 5 minutes isn’t the worst thing! :) But yes, now that I’ve broken the seal, as it were, I’ll have to look into other types of lentils. Food: so much goodness, so little time!

  4. i was going to say just the same as janet. i am a lentil lover and cook them at least once a week if not twice. i was quite surprised that you managed to keep the red ones firm. kudos to you ms. beginner’s luck lentil cook! the french green lentils otherwise known as le puy are perfect for this type of use and the reds i use each week for indian dal as they can cook up so creamy. but, who cares – your salad looks awesome! yes, let’s all cook for spring! :)

  5. Oh yum… this looks great! I’ve been wanting to experiment with lentils. Can’t wait to try it out next week. Hope your spring is there to stay! :)

  6. sylviadewy

    Whoa!! This is one healthy recipe, rich in protein and looks absolutely scrumptious. Will try this soon, thanks for sharing! :)

  7. This sounds like a perfect salad for a fast and delicious lunch! Not to mention cheap–I would love lentils just for that. :) Now I know what to do with the lingering clementines in our fruit bowl…

  8. MC

    I love the new look to your blog! And, of course, those red lentils and citrus are seriously calling my name! I brought home a bag of florida oranges last week, so I’m definitely going to give this a try! Lentils are my favorite!!!

  9. Pingback: Recipes I’ve favourited on foodgawker lately | Dora's Kitchen

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