I may be about to expand your definition of a salad. This one contains lentils, vegetables, and arugula, and has no dressing. A vinaigrette dressing would be good here, but I didn’t find it necessary at all–the salad has plenty of flavor without a dressing. I like to experiment with salads combining lentils or beans, a type of grain, an herb or green leafy vegetable like spinach, and vegetables or fruit. For example, I recently made a salad with millet (an underused grain a lot of people are unfamiliar with except as it applies to bird seed), black beans, cilantro, mango, and a red wine vinaigrette dressing. Yum!
Salads that contain legumes, grains, veggies, fruits, and the like are great for a main dish, unlike a salad composed of mostly lettuce. The legumes, in this case the lentils, are very satisfying and keep you full for a while. It’s really a great lunch dish–easy to pack and you don’t even have to heat it up if you don’t want to.
It’s getting colder, and this time of year root vegetables come in season. Root vegetables include beets, sweet potatoes, potatoes, turnips, rutabaga, carrots, parsnips, and others. In this salad, I used beets and sweet potatoes because I happened to have sweet potato and because I am trying to find more ways to eat beets. However, you can use any one root vegetable or a combination of 2 or more. I like the beets and sweet potatoes in this salad, because they are sweet and pair nicely with the hearty lentils. Lentils are easier to cook than other types of beans–no need to pre-soak, and they take less than 30 minutes to cook.
Lentils are charming. I really think I like them better than just about any other legume. For this recipe, I used green lentils, aka standard lentils. There are other varieties you can use as well, but don’t use red lentils. They are smaller, thinner, and lose their shape in a hurry. They literally turn to mush after 30 minutes in a boiling pot of water, and are much better suited to making a soup, like Indian daal.
So, for the ingredients and amounts:
2 medium sweet potatoes
3 medium beets
Or…a combination of other roots to equal about the same weight (2 lbs, give or take a little) Carrots and blue potatoes would be a fun combo for a salad like this too.
1 cup dried green lentils
About 4 cups of water for cooking the lentils
Salt and pepper to taste
3 big handfuls of fresh arugula (baby spinach is a good substitute)
2 oz. goat cheese
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
Bring the water to a boil, toss in the lentils, turn the heat down to medium, and cook covered for about 30 minutes. Do not salt the lentils until after they cook. Salt hardens beans and they take much longer to cook if they are salted. You may make the lentils ahead of time if you like. Once cooked, uncover and remove lentils from heat to cool. Then, drain the liquid using a strainer. Add salt to taste.
Peel and chop the beets and sweet potatoes. Mostly uniform pieces are important here–if you have giant pieces and small pieces together, the big pieces will take much longer to cook. Exactness is unimportant, but basic uniformity is your goal. Check out the sweet potatoes:
Wear an apron and know that your cutting board will be stained when you handle the beets. I love beets, but they stain everything. A photo of beet surgery:
Once your vegetables are chopped, place them in a medium mixing bowl and toss with a few pinches of salt, pepper, and the olive oil.
Then, spread on a cookie sheet.
Bake for about 35-40 minutes. The beets won’t be as tender as the sweet potatoes, but will still be easy to pierce with a fork. Then, mix the vegetables with the lentils. Stir in the arugula and top with the goat cheese. Taste and add salt if necessary.