This year, I ended up with a small crop of lettuces that lasted through the winter. I’d like to chalk this up to my green thumb, but it was really more of an accident. I never got around to pulling them up in the fall, and they survived, although they look like a scraggly bunch of weeds more than anything else. Despite their dilapidated appearance, I have been carefully hoarding these precious plants, as several of them are bunches of arugula. I love the spicy hotness of arugula. Just a handful can turn a bland green salad into high-class fare.
Although the arugula isn’t necessary in this salad, it adds a delightful dimension. This is one of my favorite creations I’ve shared with all of you so far. Like many of my favorite recipes, it’s a complete meal in a dish, it’s simple and healthy, yet the flavors are complex and delicious. The bread is hearty and substantial, the lentils creamy and filling and warm. The arugula and lettuce adds a freshness and crisp texture, while the caramelized onions add a hint of sweetness that contrasts with the tang of balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard. I like to top this with a slightly underdone fried egg. The creamy yolk seeps into the bread below, mixing with the dressing, like a glorified fried-egg sandwich. The bread selection is important. Make sure you use a nice, crusty loaf, preferably something whole grain and substantial. I like using this bread recipe.
As always, there are multiple variations. You can leave the arugula out and use virtually any mix of greens, although I’d avoid straight spinach, which lacks the crispness of other lettuces. You can try tossing on other vegetables; I think shredded carrot would be great, and I’ve used sliced cherry tomatoes and steamed broccoli (at different times) with great success. I’ve also provided ideas for special diets and allergies, which you’ll see below.
The last time I made this, I served it with this apple salad. It’s a main dish, so I’d pair it with a fruit side, but I’m curious what all of you would dish up next to it. It’s hard for me to think of things to go with bean- or bread/grain-based salads, because a bread-based dish seems like overkill on the bread, as does something with beans or another green salad. So that leaves me with fruit. Oh, and soup of course, although, let’s be honest, the chances of me making both on the same day are slim.
Special Diets & Allergies: Vegetarian, dairy free, nut free, soy free, vegan (if you omit the fried egg, which is still very good), wheat free if you use Cornbread Croutons (see the recipe below) instead of bread.
Lentil Salad with Arugula
Serves 4 as a Main Dish
This dish is more than a salad: It’s a full meal in a bowl. The flavors meld together deliciously, with the peppery arugula contrasting with the tangy balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard. Make sure you use a good, crusty loaf here, not sandwich bread. You can easily make this vegan by omitting the fired egg. If you do that, consider tossing on some roasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds. If wheat is an issue, use the Cornbread Crouton recipe below instead of bread cubes. I love serving this with fried eggs, but I think it’s essential to get the cooking time right. You want the yolk just past runny, to that creamy stage where it will still seep out when broken open with a fork and sink into the bread. Also, cook the eggs right before serving so that they’re nice and hot. Get each salad plate ready before cracking the eggs on the griddle, then slide them directly from the pan onto the plates. Serve immediately.
1 C brown lentils
2 1/2 C vegetable broth
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 4 chunks
1/2 medium yellow onion, peeled and sliced in 4 sections
1 bay leaf
1/2 t dried thyme
2 minced garlic cloves
1/2 t salt
pepper to taste
- Put all the ingredients in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to boil over high heat.
- Cover partially, reduce heat, and simmer for 25 minutes, or until most of the liquid is absorbed, and the lentils are tender.
- Remove the bay leaf, carrot and onion. Chop the carrot and onion and return to the pot.
1 large loaf of crusty, artisan bread, cut in 1″ cubes (about 6 C) (or 1-2 recipes of the Cornbread Croutons, below)
1/2 medium yellow onion, sauteed until brown in 2 T olive oil
4 heaping C of mixed lettuces (preferably a combination of green leaf lettuce and arugula)
4 fried eggs, sprinkled with salt and pepper and cooked until the yolk is still creamy, but not runny
Dressing: Combine the following:
1/4 C olive oil
1/4 C balsamic vinegar
1/4 C Dijon mustard
- Place about 1 1/2 C of bread cubes on each of 4 plates. Top each with a heaping 1/2 C of lentils, then 1 heaping C of lettuce.
- Drizzle the ensemble with dressing, place a piping hot fried egg on each salad mound, then sprinkle with fried onions. Serve immediately.
Wheat-Free Cornbread Croutons
This crouton recipe produces salty cubes of crunchy cornbread, perfect for salads and soups. It’s also vegan. This recipe does not make fantastic cornbread, so don’t be turned off by the initial product, and don’t plan on making it as a traditional cornbread served as a side dish. Have a little faith, and try turning it into croutons; I think you’ll be surprised at how delicious they are.
1/4 C flaxseed meal
1/4 C very hot water
2 C cornmeal
4 t baking powder
3/4 t salt
1/4 C agave
1/4 C olive oil
1 C milk of choice (I like unsweetened almond milk)
3 T olive oil
1 t salt
- Preheat the oven to 375 F. Grease a 8×8 baking dish.
- Combine the flaxseed and hot water and let sit about 5 minutes, until gelatinous.
- Meanwhile, combine the cornmeal, baking powder, and 3/4 t salt.
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the agave, 1/4 C of the olive oil, the milk, and the flaxseed mixture.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until just combined.
- Pour into the baking pan and cook for 20-25 minutes, until the top is golden. Remove from the oven.
- Let the cornbread cool for at least 5 minutes or up to a day.
- When you’re ready to proceed, preheat the oven to 425 F.
- Cut into 1/2″ chunks. Toss with the remaining 3 T of olive oil and 1 t salt. Place in an even layer on one or two cookie sheets and roast in the oven for about 5 minutes. Stir with a spatula, then roast for another 3-5 minutes, until golden and crisp.