Earthy lentils, brown basmati rice, buttery pine nuts, creamy feta, and spicy arugula. That is a lot of awesome in one bowl! This rice lentil salad is both good and good for you, an excellent combo. 🙂 And it’s flexible enough to work as a side along with a meat course or as a main for a vegetarian meal.
Now, if you’re saying ‘French green lentils what are those?’ I’m here to help. As you can see from the photos, French lentils are small and green (hence the name) and hold their shape when you cook them. There are many types of lentils with different flavors and different behaviors when cooked. Some, like the standard on US shelves – the brown lentils, turn soft and mushy when cooked and are best in soups; others break down almost completely, such as red and yellow lentils; and then there are black and green lentils, which hold their shape and are great for salads. I also like the fairly mild, a little spicy flavor of the French lentils since I think it pairs well with a vinaigrette.
If you can’t find French lentils in the store (though you may have some luck in the natural or specialty food sections), you can certainly order them on-line! I personally always have a container of them in my pantry. Like most dried beans, they have a long shelf life, and I like having them on hand for whenever I’m in the mood for a lentil salad that evening.
Another nice thing about lentils is that they cook quickly. There is no need to pre-soak them or to let them rest in the hot water so they can finish cooking. About 20 minutes is all you need from putting them in the pot until they are done and ready to be used in your recipe. For a salad I let them cool in the bowl until just warm, so we’re talking 35 minutes start to finish. And they can be made ahead if you want to bring this salad to a picnic or serve it at cookout! Make the salad through tossing the lentils with the dressing up to 2 days ahead. Then add the cheese and pine nuts an hour or two ahead, and pull out the arugula just before serving. For a crowd, I would chop the arugula and toss it with the salad as I put it out. Less fuss for a group. 🙂
However, right now it’s too chilly for cookouts or picnics and I’m enjoying having it warm alongside a nice bowl of soup, like Tomato Soup or Pasta e Fagioli. That sounds like a great early Spring dinner to me.
– Happy Eating, Annemarie
- 1 cup brown basmati rice, rinsed
- ¾ cup french green lentils, rinsed
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ tsp dried thyme
- ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
- 4 oz feta cheese
- 4 cups arugula
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 2 tbsp minced shallots
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Combine rice with 2 cups of water and cook according to package directions until tender. Start the rice first, since brown rice takes longer to cook than lentils.
- Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the lentils, salt, bay leaf, and thyme. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender but not falling apart. Drain and blot dry and then transfer them to a medium bowl. Add the rice to the bowl with the lentils.
- Mix all the salad dressing ingredients together and pour the dressing over the lentils and rice, stirring to mix it in. Allow them to cool until just warm, about 15 minutes. Then add the pine nuts and feta. Toss to combine.
- To serve add arugula to four salad bowls and then spoon the lentil mixture over. To serve as a side dish to a crowd, roughly chop the arugula and mix it in just before serving.
Standard long-grain brown rice found on US shelves will also work in this recipe. However, brown basmati cooks up drier and firmer, which makes it especially good for salads.
If you can't find green lentils in the store, you can order them on-line.