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Lemony Lentils and Roasted Beets

I’m slowly coming to the realization that fall is firmly here. The first few days of cool air and open windows felt refreshing, but then I expected the warm air to return. Instead, I’ve had to don my first gloves of the season, freezing at my alma mater’s football game and getting soaked by the rain. Sarah has had her first cold. And I no longer need to carefully plan when to turn on the oven to compete with the central air.

The change of seasons is evident in my produce box too. Lots of winter squash (not that I’m complaining!). More leafy greens. And all those things that have grown all summer underground. Which must have included the beets I received, because they were as large as softballs. Seriously, someone could have been hurt.

Beets are great on salads or with a little goat cheese, but my softball-sized beets presented a bit of a challenge—a week of beet salads didn’t really appeal. When in doubt, I turn to my bookshelf of cooking wisdom for ideas and inspiration, and this time, Deborah Madison won out with her suggestion of a salad of roasted beet cubes and green lentils lightened up with lots of lemon zest, a lemon vinaigrette and parsley and mint.

I chose to make this for a light lunch with some crackers. It could also work well as a side dish, or would be a great addition to a potluck or buffet. The key is to cook the beets and lentils, but keep a little bite to them, and the shredded beet garnish adds one more dimension of texture, plus that pretty beet red color.

Lemony Lentils and Roasted Beets
Adapted from Deborah Madison, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

1 pound beets, about 4 medium (or 2 giant)
1 teaspoon olive oil
Salt and fresh pepper
1 cup French green lentils
1 carrot, finely diced
½ small onion, finely diced
1 bay leaf
4 parsley branches
2 thyme branches
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/3 cup chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped mint, plus sprigs for garnish

Lemon Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
¼ teaspoon salt
1 shallot, finely diced
3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, or to taste
Fresh pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Peel the beets and cut all but one into small cubes. Set the last beet aside for garnish. Toss the cubed beets with the oil, season with salt and pepper and roast on a sheet pan until tender, about 35 minutes, stirring once or twice. Meanwhile, put the lentils in a pan with water to cover, add the carrot, onion, bay leaf, parsley and thyme and ½ teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until lentils are tender, but still a little firm, about 25 minutes. Drain well and remove aromatics.

2. To make the vinaigrette, combine the lemon juice, zest, salt, and shallot in a small bowl. Let stand for 15 minutes, then whisk in the oil and season with pepper to taste.

3. Toss the lentils with the roasted beets and the vinaigrette, the lemon zest, parsley and mint. Grate the remaining beet. Put the lentils onto a platter and garnish with the raw beet and mint sprigs.

Serves 4-6.

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3 comments to Lemony Lentils and Roasted Beets

  • Diana

    OMG. This salad looks amazing. I am the biggest BEET FAN and with lemon…in foodie heaven. Bravo!

  • Stephanie

    I made this last night and it was SO good. I didn’t have mint or thyme, but I added extra parsley and it was still yummy. Also… Is a shallot the same as a green onion? I just used green onion. Again, it was still yummy!

    • I’m so glad you tried it and liked it! Shallots are not the same as green onions. Shallots look more like tiny yellow onions…they have papery, reddish-brown exterior and are a tiny bit purple inside. They are great in salad dressings–a little sweeter and milder, but almost more complex than regular onions. Keep an eye out for them at the farmers markets/grocery stores. But, in a pinch, I’m sure scallions would work out just fine.