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Lentils are low in calories, but rich in nutrients like folate and good sources of fiber, protein and iron. They also cook faster than dried beans, and don’t need to be soaked ahead of time.
In this healthy winter salad, lentils are first cooked with carrots, celery, onions, garlic and bay leaves. The tasty lentils are then tossed with yummy ingredients like almonds, feta cheese and dried cranberries. The result is a delicious side dish for chicken, pork or steak. Add some chopped bacon or prosciutto, and this easy salad becomes a meal on its own.
Garden Fresh Ingredients
For the lentil salad, I used parsley and thyme from my garden. Both herbs thrive in full sun. Thyme is drought-tolerant, once established. So I grow mine in a terra cotta pot, because it drains especially well. Parsley, on the other hand, likes well-drained, moist soil.
One of the best parts about growing herbs in your garden is that you can clip only what you need. It’s much less expensive than paying for large bunches of herbs at the store, which may not get completely eaten. Plus, you can’t beat the taste of fresh herbs picked straight from the garden.
If you live in a cold climate, here are fun ways to freeze herbs for winter meals.
My lentils were bought, but you can grow this member of the legume family yourself. Lentils can be planted in early-spring, as they tolerate spring frosts. The plants thrive in deep, sandy loam soils (around 7.0 pH) which are high in phosphorus and potassium. Lentils do prefer dryer areas with less humidity, and are usually grown in the Western U.S., reports
Purdue University. Lucky for us, there are plenty of lentil varieties available in the stores.
Lentil Salad with Feta
This salad was inspired by a Williams-Sonoma recipe, but I’ve changed the recipe quite a bit. Once you add the cooked lentils into the salad, you’ll still have leftovers. Use the extra in soup or casseroles, but eat within three days.
Note: I used red lentils in my soup, but I wouldn’t do it again. The red lentils tasted delicious, but they got mushy when they cooked. I recommend using green or brown lentils instead. They hold their shape better than the red ones. That’s what I’ll do next time.
For cooked lentils:
1 lb. of lentils
1 carrot, halved
1 celery stalk, cut into 3 pieces
1 yellow onion peeled and halved
1 to 2 garlic cloves
1 bay leaf
5 cups of water
1 roasted bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp of fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped almonds
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1) Cook Lentils: In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, cook the lentils, carrot, celery, yellow onion, garlic and bay leaf in about 5 to 5 1/2 cups of water. Make sure everything is covered with water. Once the water starts to boil, reduce heat to medium-low and cover the pan. Simmer until the liquid is absorbed, and the lentils are cooked. Discard the vegetables, and use 2 ½ cups of lentils for the salad. The remaining lentils can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
2) Make Salad: In a large bowl, combine roasted bell pepper, parsley, thyme with lentils. Stir in vinegar and olive oil. Add feta, nuts and dried cranberries. Season with salt and pepper.
We served our lentil salad with grilled pork chops, and loved every bite – even with the slight mushiness. We hope you enjoy this salad as much as we do.