This weekend my mother was in town and despite our busy schedule of events we made time to spend an afternoon shopping. After several hours we decided we deserved a break from all the tough work and stopped for lunch. Our motto has always been, “Shop ‘Til You Drop”. We just happened to be standing outside a small cafe attached to a bakery when I realized it was 2 PM and I was bordering on “hangry”. We stepped inside to a full dining room, a table for two inviting us in, and just about every person’s plate looked better than the next. It was perfect and was discovered without forethought or even a search on yelp. Isn’t it great when that happens? I ordered a bowl of bean chili accompanied with a fresh baguette and my mother ordered a beet, avocado and lentil salad. We of course shared plates to try a little bit of both but the salad stuck out as feeling perfectly fresh and fall-ish at the same time.
On Sunday I found myself at Trader Joe’s and staring back at me were prepared beets and lentils side by side on the grocery store shelf. It was fate, I snatched them up with the intention of recreating that salad. I didn’t feel like splurging on an avocado and a crispy apple felt like a perfect addition. I’ve never liked the taste of celery on it’s own. It used to be the vegetable that disintegrated in my crisper drawer after a recipe called for it. Recently, I’ve realized it can be a great flavor to mix with others, almost like you would an herb. All these ingredients feel like they belong together on the plate. The earthy beets, hearty lentils, crisp apples and… well, I don’t know what celery tastes like other than celery… but it works well. Since I had the celery leaves and a bit of parsley I used that as a garnish forming the edge of the bed for everything else.
Last step was the dressing. I had just a little bit of walnut oil lurking in the back of a cabinet and I knew that would pair perfectly with the apple and beets. In a pinch, any other oil, especially a nut oil, could be substituted. I shook up the dressing right in the walnut oil bottle and poured it on (see below) just to avoid getting another bottle dirty (plus it pours well). The dressing makes several servings but I dished this salad up in a single serving. To keep the dressing sugar free, I used apple cider vinegar which has a natural sweetness without added sugar. Another fantastic things about this salad is that it can be prepared and fully dressed ahead since there are no delicate greens to wilt. I packed it for lunch the following day and it only gets better sitting in the dressing overnight.
Lentil, Beet and Apple Salad
2 beets (buy precooked or roast wrapped in foil for 30-45 minutes at 375), sliced
1 celery stalk, sliced
1 apple, sliced
1/4 cup brown lentils (buy precooked or cook according to package directions)
Optional: parsley or celery leaves to garnish
Walnut-Apple Cider Dressing:
1/3 cup walnut oil
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
4 Tbsp diced shallot
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
Special Equipment Needed: None
Assemble the salad out of all the ingredients. Mix the dressing together in a jar or bowl. Toss 2-3 tablespoons of dressing with a single serving of the salad. Salad can be dressed up to 24 hours ahead of time.