In my world a nectarine lentil salad is basically this: sweet juicy nectarines, crisp cucumber, sweet red onion, little bursts of minty and lemony flavors together with delicate baby arugula leaves and a little salty feta, all in one bowl with caviar-like beluga lentils. And I couldn’t love it more.
Beluga lentils and nectarine really work beautifully together. Yes, me and my fruit in salads. It’s a little obsession of mine. But then again we are all doing it — tomatoes are technically a fruit and so is avocado – both of which often find their way into salads. Come to think of it, there are a number of “vegetables” that are actually fruit. Cucumbers, peppers, zucchini and even butternut squash – all fruit! Yes, fruit in salads is good and it’s a great way to step up your salad game.
What is fantastic about this nectarine lentil salad is — besides the salad itself! — is that you can do as I did and cook the lentils the night before and then store them in the fridge once they are cooled. This makes for a really quick toss it all together in mere minute’s salad the next day.
During our summer holiday, I served this for a late breakfast/early brunch (cause I love salads at brunch – BTW, if you do too, then you will love Sunday brunch at Elbe 76 — it’s one of my favorite local restaurants in Hamburg). So that’s right, a little prep meant I could be extra lazy and sleep in without worrying about cooking and cooling lentils for a salad. It also meant I had a whole lot of extra time to make pancakes for the kids. That’s right, no rest for the wicked! :-/
Having cooked lentils in the fridge (or any beans for that matter) is a great time management tool. It really helps speed up everything when preparing salads, soups and side dishes. Plus, it’s a great way to add a little extra protein when cooking vegetarian or vegan meals.
Don’t like nectarines? Then give peaches or oranges a try. Don’t do dairy? No biggy. Just leave the feta cheese out. Maybe add a tad more salt. For a non-vegetarian version, you could also substitute the feta with a little chopped prosciutto, sautéed until slightly crispy.
Not only does this nectarine lentil salad make for the perfect addition to brunch on a hot summer day, it’s also a great side for a picnic or BBQ. Leftovers also taste great the next day!
1 cup dried beluga lentils, rinsed (250 g)
2 ripe nectarines, diced
1/2 English cucumber, seeded and finely chopped
1 small to medium red onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 handfuls baby arugula leaves
100 g feta cheese (I use 100% sheep’s milk), crumbled
sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1. Place the lentils in a large saucepan, cover with plenty of water and bring to a boil (generally, lentils should be cooked at a 1:3 ratio, lentils to water). Simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes. Drain, then transfer to a large serving bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.
TIP: I recommend tasting the lentils after about 25 minutes to see if they are the consistency you want — more firm (al dente) is best for salads.
2. Add all the ingredients to the bowl with the lentils. Toss together then season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. That’s it. :-)
TIP: Plan ahead: You can prepare the lentils up to 2 days in advance. Let cool; cover and store in the refrigerator.