This healthy change-of-season dish makes a great main or side
As the weather makes its leisurely turn from chilly to warm across much of the US, our appetites are beginning to change too. We may still crave some hearty dishes, but we’re looking to lighten things up a bit.
This Lentil, Rice, and Pea Salad is perfect for the seasonal transition. Lentils and rice give comfort during the cool days that still linger on, while peas add color and a touch of spring.
This dish delivers as a meatless main course, but it also makes a tasty side. It’s vegan and gluten-free, too, so you can serve it wherever. Best of all, it’s equally good warm or chilled.
So what are you waiting for? No matter what the weather is like in your part of the world, you can make a dish that promises sunny days ahead.
Recipe: Lentil, Rice, and Pea Salad
This dish is simplicity itself to make. Just combine cooked lentils, rice, and peas with some chopped onions and parsley. Toss with a lemony vinaigrette, and serve.
You can also change things up to suit your own tastes. Prefer brown rice to white? No problem. Want to substitute pasta or quinoa? Feel free. Want fewer lentils, more peas? Easy (as in easy peasy). Want to change the spices? Knock yourself out.
This recipe takes 30 to 40 minutes to prepare, part of that unattended. It yields 3 to 4 main-course servings, or twice that many side dish-servings. You can easily double the quantity (it’s great for picnics).
Leftovers keep for a day or two if refrigerated in an airtight container.
For the salad:
- ¾ cup lentils
- ½ cup white rice (may substitute brown rice, or another grain)
- 1 small or ½ medium red onion (yellow onion works too; see Notes)
- ~1 cup peas (fresh-shelled if they’ve available, otherwise frozen green peas work fine, particularly the baby ones)
- 2 tablespoons minced parsley
- 2 cloves of garlic
- ¾ teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground (or other spice of your choice; optional; see Notes)
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon ground ancho pepper (to taste; may substitute cayenne pepper, but use only about half the amount)
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (or red wine vinegar; or a mix of lemon juice and vinegar)
- ~¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (may want a bit more; see Step 8)
- ~½ teaspoon salt (to taste)
- ~¼ teaspoon pepper (to taste)
- lemon slices or twists (optional)
- The lentils take the longest to cook (usually about half an hour), so start with them. Pick through the lentils and remove any tiny stones or lumps of dirt that might be in the package. Rinse the lentils, then pour them into a 2-quart sauce pan, and add enough water to cover the lentils by an inch. Bring the lentils to a boil on top of the stove, then turn the heat down so the water is just simmering. Set a timer for 20 minutes—the lentils won’t be done then, but you may need to add a bit more water at that point. Cook the lentils until they are just soft, but still hold their shape—usually 25 to 30 minutes. When the lentils are cooked, drain them and set aside.
- While the lentils are simmering, cook the rice according to package instructions. When the rice is cooked, remove it from the heat and set aside.
- Meanwhile, peel the red onion and cut into dice of ½ inch or less. Set aside.
- Shell the peas (if using fresh) or measure out the frozen peas and cook them. I prefer cooking peas in a covered microwave-safe dish with a tablespoon of water—they take 3 or 4 minutes, depending on the power of your microwave. When the peas are cooked, drain them and set aside.
- Wash and mince the parsley, then set aside.
- Prepare the vinaigrette: Peel the garlic and mince finely.
- Measure the cumin seeds (if using) into a small microwave-safe bowl (I use a ramekin) and nuke them for 3 or 4 minutes until they begin to turn color (you’ll be able to smell them). Let the cumin seeds cool, then grind them in a spice grinder.
- Place the minced garlic, ground cumin seeds, and ancho pepper in a small plastic jar with a lid. Add the lemon juice and olive oil, then shake well to combine. Add the salt and pepper, shake again, and adjust seasoning if necessary. (If the mix is too acidic for you, add a bit more olive oil.)
- Assemble the salad: Add the lentils, rice, red onion, peas, and minced parsley to a bowl large enough for tossing all the ingredients. Toss quickly to combine, then add the vinaigrette. Toss again until well combined. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve, adding lemon slices or twists for garnish if desired.
- The cooking time for lentils increases as they age (they dry out more). I use regular brown lentils for this dish, but French Le Puy green lentils would be quite nice (and they hold their shape better when cooked).
- I think red onion adds both nice color and flavor to this dish, but you could substitute white or yellow onion if you prefer. Or scallions.
- Adding diced red bell pepper to the dish (in addition to the onion) is a nice touch.
- I like the flavor of cumin in this dish, but you could substitute another spice or herb (or leave it out altogether; the dish will have a more subtle flavor). The taste of freshly roasted cumin is magic, IMO, but regular ground cumin is nice too. Fresh rosemary or thyme are also great flavor choices for this dish.
- Lemon juice adds wonderful flavor to this salad. But substituting wine vinegar works. In fact, I usually add just a bit of wine vinegar to vinaigrette dressing—I like its bite.
As the Weather Turns
“Will spring never get here?” asked Mrs. Kitchen Riffs, munching her salad. “We’ve been seeing robins for weeks, and we’ve had a few tantalizingly warm days. But the cold weather just keeps hanging on.”
“It’s definitely a late spring this year,” I agreed. “But there’s one sure sign that warm weather is arriving.”
“And that would be?” asked Mrs K R.
“Our lawn,” I replied. “The grass has suddenly greened up and started growing again—it’s about the only thing that has. I need to start mowing it.”
“Well, no need to worry about that task right now,” said Mrs K R. “Why not dish us up another helping of this great Lentil, Rice, and Pea Salad? You can cut the grass tomorrow.”
Yup, tomorrow. Always our favorite day for chores.
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Lentil, Quinoa, and Zucchini Salad
Summer White Bean and Quinoa Salad
Dal with Swiss Chard
Easy Lentil Soup
Edamame and Bean Salad
White Bean and Tuna Salad
Summer Pasta Salad
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