During the warm summer months, I’m always looking for salads that are light and refreshing, but that also feel substantial. Especially as a vegetarian, eating “salads” can get pretty boring and don’t always provide the complete nutrition I need. So I’ve been working on incorporating various legumes and grains into my salads. In particular, I’ve been loving lentils lately (look at that, I made an alliteration!).
Lentils, which are part of the legume family, are a wonderful source of fiber, folate and magnesium. They’re a quick cooking bean, are really versatile, and soak up any flavor.
In this particular salad I used a type of “Ivory White” lentil, which is a gorgeous backdrop to the bright vegetables. I also used a technique called “blistering” to cook the asparagus and sugar snap peas. Blistering is essentially cooking over high heat, in a dry pan. It keeps the vegetables, crisp and bright while giving them an almost smoky flavor. It only takes a few minutes, so you really have to watch your pan and toss the vegetables frequently.
As I started to think about how I wanted to dress this salad, I knew it needed something a little more “decadent”. Lentils and vegetables are great on their own, for sure. But not something I’m waiting to devour at the end of a day. I needed to up my salad game with a great dressing to pull it all together. And this one does not disappoint.
For the base of the dressing I used mascarpone cheese (I know right, yum!). I added a ton of shallots, lemon juice and olive oil. Mixed it all together with a little salt and pepper and voila – a creamy, salty dressing that makes this dish swoon worthy.
I went ahead and made the dressing right in the bottom of my serving bowl. Then I added the warm lentils right on top, to let them soak up the creamy goodness for a while. I always like to dress my legumes, grains, and pastas right when they’re still warm so the flavors are absorbed really well.
Then on top of everything went the crispy snap peas and asparagus, a handful of fresh arugula and radishes, and a sprinkling of pine nuts for some extra crunch.
Salty, creamy, crunchy and bright, all in one bowl. Beautiful and delicious – it doesn’t get much better than this (well, at least when it comes to salads ;).
- 1 cup of Ivory White Lentils (or any lentils you prefer)
- 4 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 bunch of asparagus, rinsed and cut into 1 inch pieces (discarding the "woody" bottom)
- 1 cup of sugar snap peas, rinsed and cut in half on a diagonal
- ½ cup of thinly sliced radishes
- a handful of baby arugula
- ¼ cup of pine nuts, lightly toasted
- Mascarpone dressing
- 2 oz of mascarpone cheese
- 1-2 shallots, minced
- the juice of one lime
- 1 tbsp. of olive oil
- Salt/pepper to taste
- In a small pot, heat 4 cups of either chicken or vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Add one cup of rinsed lentils. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and allow lentils to cook for 15 minutes, until lentils are tender. Drain lentils and set aside.
- While lentils are cooking, make the dressing.
- In a serving bowl, combine mascarpone cheese, lemon juice, shallots, olive oil and salt and pepper. Whisk together to form a creamy consistency. Once lentils are cooked, add warm lentils directly to the the serving dish with the dressing and allow lentils to absorb the liquid. (This can be done in advance, and left in the fridge until ready to serve).
- Over medium/high heat, heat a large frying pan (do not add any oil, pan should be dry). Add the chopped asparagus and cut sugar snap peas. Allow vegetables to cook over high heat for 1-2 minutes, toss, and cook for an additional minute. Sprinkle vegetables with salt and pepper.
- Add blistered vegetables, radishes, arugula and pine nuts to the lentils. Toss all together to combine. Add additional pine nuts/arugula to the top of the salad as a garnish.
- Serve and enjoy