Dijon Lentil Salad

A little reflection and plant-based eating is in order.

This week, my attention has been turned to the prevalence of food waste. In recent decades, as the variety and availability of food across the United States has grown, certain side outcomes have arisen, unexpectedly. Food deserts now exist in many lower-income communities, in which community members find themselves unable to provide adequate, healthy food for their families. Meanwhile, food waste at the household level is reaching an all-time high. Globally, the FAO estimates, nearly one-third of food that is produced is either lost before getting to market, or thrown away on the consumer's end of the chain. What can be done?

Many of us are lucky enough to have access to an array of food on a daily basis; we may even find ourselves overwhelmed, partaking in the luxury of a vast array of available food from across the globe. To me, the answer (at the household level) is getting back to more traditional cooking practices. We're all guilty of getting excited about a new recipe, only to buy that big bottle of exotic spice or the large carton of heavy cream, and use it for a single recipe. Using the odds and ends to make a hearty stock or a mixed vegetable curry or Minestrone can result in a delicious, clear-out-the-fridge weeknight meal. Further, planning your meals ahead, and making substitutions work for you, can be both a money-saver and better for the planet; I've had many times where I've made do with ingredients that I had on hand -- I don't really need an entire bottle of agave nectar for just one recipe. All the more money in the chocolate chip fund.

To this end, this recipe was cobbled together with the idea of using a bunch of leftover kale we had lying around, from a delicious vegan caldo verde from the Forks over Knives Cookbook. No one in my family is a voracious raw kale-eater, and personally, I don't think this particular leafy green has much of a place as a base for a salad (I prefer to reserve it for stews, where its sturdiness really shines). So, I made do, and found some ingredients around the house.

I decided on a lentil salad, with a French flavor. Dijon mustard is one of my favorite flavor profiles in the world, and I really love it with the gritty, substantial texture of lentils. Throw in some red wine vinegar and some local honey, and you're golden. Plus, lentils are very budget-friendly -- saving space in the cart for some fancier baking ingredients.

I started out by preparing the lentils on the stove, a 1:3 ratio, lentils to water, with a bay leaf thrown in. They take about 20-25 minutes to cook through, which gave me enough time to chop up some carrots and kale.

Lentil Salad

1 cup dry lentils, cooked in 3 cups water

1 bay leaf, removed after boiling lentils

2 carrots

1 cup raw kale

1 clove raw garlic

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

1.5 tbsp dijon mustard

2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp dried parsley

1/4 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp dried rosemary

Salt and pepper, to tast 

  1. Cook the lentils according to instructions on packaging, 3 cups of water for each cup of lentils used. Add in a bay leaf, and be sure to remove it at the end.
  2. Cut up 2 large carrots into small pieces, and set aside in a large bowl.
  3. Chop the kale into short ribbons.
  4. Add the kale and garlic to the lentils in the pot, to wilt the kale.
  5. Stir well, and transfer to bowl. 
  6. Add the vinegar, mustard, olive oil, spices, and lemon juice to the bowl, combining all ingredients, and stir well. The lentils will mush a bit.
  7. Add salt and pepper to taste.

This recipe is warm and comforting, utterly plant-based and very healthy. It is also highly customizable, with room for plenty of different kinds of greens and vegetables, as your refrigerator dictates.