Every year to ring in the new year, we follow the Italian tradition of eating lentils which is thought to bring luck and prosperity as the tiny round lentils are said to resemble the small lire coins. Usually we enjoy a nice hearty bowl of lentil soup, or sometimes a dish of braised lentils and sausages. This year, New Year’s Day fell on the weekend and we decided to spend it at the beach as the temperature was expected to be in the mid 80’s. After a day at the beach, I really didn’t want to come home to a bowl of hot soup or a heavy dish of braised lentils and sausages so I decided instead to incorporate the lentils into a salad that we could pack in our picnic basket and enjoy at the beach. I opened my pantry cupboards and pulled out a few holiday leftovers such as dried cranberries and walnuts, roasted a winter squash that had been left on my counter for over a week, and added a few fresh ingredients from the refrigerator, ending up with the most delicious salad I’ve had in a very long time. To dress the salad, since it included some earthy flavored items, I used a combination of balsamic vinegar and walnut oil which complimented the other ingredients perfectly. We thoroughly enjoyed our lentil salad on the beach, and I know I will be making this salad often in the future.
I generally prefer using the tiny, tan colored Umbrian lentils, but instead for this salad I chose the small, green French lentils. I would avoid red lentils for salads as they can get mushy. Be careful when cooking the lentils, tasting them often as they cook, as you want them fairly firm for salads. To keep the ingredients intact, it is best to cool them individually before assembling the salad. Toasting the walnuts really brings out their flavor and is easily accomplished by simply roasting them in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 10 to 12 minutes.
Deborah Mele 2011
New Year's Lentil Salad
A delicious way to bring good luck into the new year!
- 3 Cups Lentils, Cooked “al dente”
- 1 Cup Finely Chopped Celery
- 3/4 Cup Chopped Green Onions
- 1/4 Cup Chopped Parsley
- 3/4 Cup Dried Cranberries
- 3/4 Cup Toasted, Chopped Walnuts (See Notes Above)
- 2 1/2 Cups Diced, Roasted Winter Squash
- 3 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
- 3 Tablespoons Walnut Oil (Or Olive Oil)
- Salt & Pepper To Taste
- Add all the ingredients into a large bowl and gently toss.
- Mix together the vinegar, oil, salt & pepper in a small bowl, then pour over the lentil ingredients and gently stir.
- Serve immediately, or store covered in the refrigerator.