I aspire to be more like the lentil. Despite their diminutive size and almost forgotten placement on either the top or bottom shelf at the grocery store, lentils don’t fret or seek to draw attention to themselves. It’s as if this humble legume is so confident in its own powerhouse status as a healthy source of fiber and protein, as well as its ability to add delightful flavor and texture to recipes such as this Lentil Salad with Roasted Cauliflower and Mushrooms, that it doesn’t care whether you pay attention to it or not.
Well, lentils, if you were hoping to sit quietly in the pantry, I am afraid I must disappoint you. Now that I’ve experienced just how tasty and filling you are in my salad, I am going to be paying you a lot of attention from this point forward.
I made this healthy lentil salad recipe for lunch a few weeks ago, and while I’d hoped it would be above average, I was not expecting it to captivate and satisfy me the way that it did. The ingredients are incredibly humble—lentils, cauliflower, and a simple red wine vinaigrette don’t exactly scream LOOK AT ME!—but after one bite, all three had my immediate, undivided attention.
Combined with the peppery arugula and meaty mushrooms, this quiet lentil salad turned out to be one roaring recipe.
About This Lentil Salad
Two important elements contribute to this green lentil salad’s unexpected flavor impact.
The first is pouring the dressing, an easy but effective combination of Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, and olive oil, over the lentils while they are still warm. Lentils are pretty mild mannered on their own, so they need the dressing to wake them up and help them shine. Lentils absorb flavor best while still warm, so don’t wait to add the dressing until the end. This is a rare cooking situation in which impatience is your friend. Embrace it.
The second essential flavor component is roasting the cauliflower and mushrooms. As much as I adore both vegetables, raw mushrooms are best reserved only for the staunchest of their devotees. Raw cauliflower? I wouldn’t even inflict it on the woman who clearly stole my front-row parking space at the gym yesterday.
Because, yes, despite the fact that I go to the gym to exercise, I still like not having to walk very far to enter the front door.
Where were we? Ah yes. ROASTING. While raw cauliflower and mushrooms can leave some serious room for improvement in the taste department, roasted cauliflower and mushrooms are magnificent. A drizzle of olive oil, pinch of salt, and the heat of your oven are all you need to transform them from blah to BOOM.
Scrape the whole pan of roasted veggie goodness, including the caramelized bits that stick to the pan, right on top of your bed of lentils and greens. Finish with a shower of crunchy toasted walnuts, and you will have a well-mannered salad that is anything but meek!
How to Store Lentil Salad
- To Store. Composed lentil salad is best enjoyed the day it is made. If you’d like to have leftovers, only toss together the portion of the vegetables, lentils, and arugula you plan to eat that day. The roasted vegetables and lentils can be stored separately for up to 3 days.
Recommended Tools to Make This Recipe
- All-purpose baking sheet
- Fish spatula (my favorite for flipping roasted veggies…and just about everything else)
Lentil Salad with Roasted Cauliflower and Mushrooms
For the Lentil Salad:
- 3/4 cup brown lentils
- 1 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
- 16 ounces mixed mushrooms I used a blend of cremini, shiitake, and oyster
- 1/2 extra-large head of cauliflower cut into florets (about 6 cups)
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil divided
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt divided
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper divided
- 8 ounces arugula
- 1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts
- Chopped fresh parsley
- Place racks in the upper and lower thirds of your oven and preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Generously coat two rimmed sheets with cooking spray.
- In a medium saucepan, bring the stock to a boil. Add the lentils and cook until tender but not mushy, about 20 to 25 minutes or as specified by the package. Watch the lentils towards the end of their cooking time and add additional chicken stock or water as needed to keep them from drying out.
- While the lentils cook, prepare the dressing: in a small bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, mustard, and salt (or shake all of the ingredients together in a mason jar with a tight-fitting lid). Pour over the warm lentils and toss to coat. Taste and add additional salt as desired. Set aside.
- Place the mushrooms on one prepared baking sheet and the cauliflower on the other. Drizzle each sheet with half of the the olive oil and sprinkle each with half the salt and half of the pepper. Toss to coat, then spread in an even layer. Place in the oven and roast until the vegetables are tender and caramelized, 20 to 30 minutes, flipping once or twice throughout. The mushrooms will finish a few minutes ahead of the cauliflower.
- Place the arugula in a large serving bowl and top with the lentils and warm roasted vegetables, including any bits of the vegetables that stuck to the pan. Toss to coat. Sprinkle with walnuts and parsley. Enjoy immediately.
- Composed lentil salad is best enjoyed the day it is made. If you'd like to have leftovers, only toss together the portion of the vegetables, lentils, and arugula you plan to eat that day. The roasted vegetables and lentils can be stored separately for up to 3 days.
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