When I was young, my mom would always let me pick out what prepared salads I wanted from the deli counter at the grocery store. I loved getting samples of all the things – and I am sure I tried every single one at some point! This salad reminds me of those days because it has the same ready-to-eat vibe making it perfect to prep and keep for a week of easy lunches.
The black lentils are paired with finely diced cucumber, red bell pepper, green onions, and parsley. The dressing is super light, a simple mix of white wine vinegar, honey, garlic, and extra virgin olive oil. It gives it flavor but lets the fresh veg and herbs be the stars.
The best part is this salad actually gets better with time. The lentils marinate in the dressing and everything stays really crisp all week long.
With such au naturale flavors going on, salt is key here. I recently read an article about salting food that really emphasized how salt should highlight flavors but not be a flavor in itself. This is why, although tolerances vary, people tend to dislike food that is over-salted. Salt is not supposed to be the dominant flavor but without it, things taste much flatter.
Salt is important to integrate from the beginning by seasoning the lentil cooking water. Do not be shy! Then incorporate a pinch into the dressing, taste and add more as needed. With this method, I did not measure myself – which is probably for the best because everyone’s tastes are different! I encourage you to taste and add and taste and add until the flavors sing and not a note of flatness remains. That is the sweet spot.
Lentil, Cucumber, and Bell Pepper Salad
Servings: makes 6 cups
Time:about 35 minutes
- 1.5 cups of dry black (beluga) lentils
- About 1.5 cups of finely diced cucumber, I used the English variety
- About 1.5 cups of finely diced red bell pepper
- 1 bunch of green onions; about 1/2-1 cup chopped thinly
- 1/4 cup of finely chopped parsley
- 1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, minced
- 5 tbsp. white wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp. honey
- 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- Cook the black lentils in gently boiling salted water in a sauce pan with a lid ajar, for about 20-25 minutes, until soft but not mushy. They should have some bite like a good al dente pasta.
- Drain the lentils and set aside to cool while you chop the veg and herbs and prepare the dressing.
- To make the dressing, combine white wine vinegar, honey, olive oil, minced garlic, and a pinch of salt.
- Add all veg and the parsley to the lentils. Pour dressing over. Stir well.
- Taste and add salt until the ingredients taste bright and flavorful. If it tastes dull, try adding a bit more until you get the balance you like.
- Salad will keep well for a week, making this a great meal-prep option.
- Lentils will marinate over time – this only improves the flavor. You can add more dressing using the same ratio if you like.
- The salted water you boil the lentils in should taste like the ocean – that is how you know it is seasoned enough! Obviously taste before the water is boiling 😊.