Beets are one of my absolute favorite vegetables. Not only are they the most gorgeous in color, but they have a deep richness in flavor that’s just unmatched. My Best Self side, the side of me that loves beets, is the same side that also loves lentils, which is why I am super geeked to share this recipe with you today. It’s one of those dishes that I make a big batch of and nosh on throughout the week. Take it to work for a healthy lunch or serve it alongside a seared burger or roasted filet of fish. It truly is the kind of dish that can stand on it’s own or round-out a complete meal. Seriously, this is the way I wish I ate every day. If it weren’t for nachos. Darn nachos!
Anywho…this is one of those blog posts that kinda feels like cheating. The recipe is just so simple – boil some lentils, add some veggies and seasonings and voila! But, I happen to think there are some helpful take aways from this recipe which make it worth the post. First, it’s important to point out that the beets here are raw! Skip the roasting part by slicing them paper thin on a mandoline. As an alternative to roasting, which can take 45 minutes, peeling and thinly slicing small beets takes merely minutes. The absolute best way to get them super thin is with a mandoline. This is the mandoline I use. It works great, cleans easily, and I picked it up at Williams-Sonoma for about $25.
PSA – I am not a gadget person, so I only tend to buy and/or recommend a kitchen tool if I really believe nothing else in the kitchen can do the same job nearly as well. This is true of the mandoline. Unless you have an impeccably sharp knife coupled with laser-sharp knife skills, a mandoline is a worthwhile investment.
The other take away is about lentils. I love that they are über healthy, gluten-free, high in fiber and cook just like pasta. Bring a pot of water to a boil, pour in the lentils, then boil gently for about 12-15 minutes until toothsome but tender. Just like other grains, such as farro or quinoa, you can boil a bunch of lentils at once, and then mix in various ingredients to make a different dish each time. And because they are so heart-healthy, they are a great food for us to love!
While I love the appearance of orange or red lentils, they tend to be split which means they overcook and become mushy more quickly. This makes them great for pureeing into soups, but less ideal for composed salads like this one. For this recipe, I prefer whole green lentils. They tend to hold their shape better and retain more of the toothsomeness, or firmness, lending a better texture to the final dish.
Lastly, this recipe is a great guide for future grain salads (one of my favorite ways to eat healthfully). Boil preferred grain, toss in a combination of ingredients like sliced or diced veggies or fruits, leafy greens, toasted nuts, crumbled cheeses, chopped fresh herbs, vinegar, oil and salt and pepper and there you have a nutrition-packed, flavor-full, hearty grain salad to feel really good about. Dare I say, a downright craveable grain salad!?! Your Best Self will love you!
Whole some lentils are easy to make and tossing them with nutritious, raw veggies makes this recipe quick, healthy and reliable.
1 cup green or brown lentils
2 medium carrots
2 small beets
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar, or champagne vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 ounces goat cheese
1 cup arugula
3 tablespoons raw pepitas
Fill a medium saucepan with water and set over high heat. Bring to a boil.
Once water is boiling, season with salt and add lentils. Cook for 12-15 minutes until al dente, tender but toothsome. I like my lentils to still have some structure, but if you like them softer feel free to boil 1-2 minutes longer.
While lentils boil, peel the beets and carrots, then use a mandoline to shave them paper thin. Set in a large mixing bowl and toss with the vinegar and oil. Season with salt and pepper. I like to do this to give them a little marinade while they wait.
Once lentils are done, strain and shake out as much moisture as possible. Transfer to the bowl of beets. Toss everything together, then let cool for about 5 minutes.
Once lentils have cooled slightly, crumble in the goat cheese along with the nuts and arugula. Season with salt and pepper, then toss everything to combine well. Serve immediately, or refrigerate and enjoy as a cold salad throughout the week.
Feta cheese is a great substitute for goat cheese, and any nut or seed would substitute well for the pepitas.