Hearty salads are just the ticket for lunch or light dinner these days. Lentils are a quick- cooking dried bean that’s not just for soup. This one includes red lentils, which are closer to orange in color, to be honest.
I made this salad recently for a Saturday, virtual demo for the Home – Cancer Support Community (mycancersupportcommunity.org). I’ve been doing cooking demos for them since I started my business 14 years ago! I’m grateful for the opportunity to cook and chat about nutrition while I do it.
This lentil quinoa salad is a good source of several nutrients, including protein, iron, vitamin C and fiber. If you’re trying to protect your immune system this thyme of year, this salad is your go-to.
Fiber from different food sources (beans, grains, fruits, veggies) helps to keep your gut microbiome (located in your large colon), thriving. Yes- poop has a function! This is why I’m a fan of eating a balanced diet that includes ALL food groups (and doesn’t diss dairy, gluten and the like).
That being said, the salad is gluten free, primarily because it’s made with quinoa. You can certainly sub other whole grains like bulgur, farro, sorghum or even brown rice.I love how quickly quinoa cooks and gives the salad a nutty taste and chewy texture.
The original salad was a recipe used in my Heart Healthy Meal Prep: 6 Weekly Plans for Low-Sodium, High-Flavor Grab-and-Go Meals – Kindle edition by Andrews MEd RD LD, Lisa Cicciarello . Cookbooks, Food & Wine Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com. but I added greens to it to boost the volume, color and nutritional value of the salad. I think it’s even better with the addition of fresh spinach! The salad keeps for about 3 days after being dressed.
The dressing is a simple vinaigrette with lemon juice, corn oil and honey. Both the lemon juice and spinach are sources of vitamin C, which enhances the iron absorption from quinoa and lentils in the salad. If you’re going meat-free this year, this is an excellent way to obtain iron in your diet. Make it vegan by leaving out the cheese.
1 cup dry red lentils 3 Tablespoons canola oil
4 cups water, divided ½ cup pecans, chopped
1 cup quinoa ½ cup dried cherries
2 Tablespoons lemon juice ½ cup feta cheese crumbles
1 teaspoon honey 1 green onion (green & white parts), chopped
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar 3 cups ripped spinach leaves
- Boil the lentils in 2 cups of water for about 3 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer on low until the lentils are soft, about 5 to 7 minutes. Drain off extra water and place in a large bowl to cool.
- While lentils are cooking, boil 2 cups of water with 1 cup of quinoa in a small pot for 3 minutes. Cover the pot, reduce heat and continue to simmer quinoa for about 15 minutes until the water has been absorbed. Allow quinoa to cool, then add it to the cooled lentils.
- In a measuring cup, mix the lemon juice, honey, vinegar and canola oil and whisk to make a dressing.
- Pour the lemon juice dressing over lentils and quinoa.
- Add the pecans, dried cherries, feta cheese, green onions and spinach to the lentils and quinoa. Toss the salad to coat. Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.
Makes 6 servings. Per serving: 400 calories, 15 g protein, 18 g fat, 47 g carbohydrates, 13 g fiber, 7 mg cholesterol, 117 mg sodium