My son commented the other day that I’m kind of like those women who obsessively buy shoes, except, I buy food. I just looked at him blankly and said…nothing. Nope, no comeback for that one. I do need to work on my shopping skills. I just get so excited by fresh, beautiful produce, seafood, meats and cheeses. Or, new and unusual things I’ve never cooked or tasted before. That’s how these lentils made their way into my pantry. I love lentils and have cooked the brown, green and red variety, but when I saw these beautiful black little beads, I couldn’t resist. These Beluga or Black lentils are tiny and cook up pretty quickly. Unfortunately, they do lose some of their color in the cooking water, but they hold their shape quite well.

Lentils are so good for you. They are low in calories and high in fiber, B vitamins, iron and protein. Those nutrients make them a perfect grain to use for a hearty salad. Salads like this can be a complete meal; they are so satisfying! I knew I’d want to use these this way. I wanted the color of the vegetables to pop off of the dark grains.

I’ve used another unusual ingredient, hearts of palm. They are the inner core of the cabbage palm tree. I love them. Their taste is similar to artichoke, but they are long and tender. Along with the avocado, they add a real richness to this salad, but you can most certainly leave them out if you don’t want to use them. Add any your favorite vegetables to this. The tangy dressing will bring it all together.

Beluga Lentil Salad with Hearts of Palm and Avocado - this power salad is packed with awesome flavors topped with a citrusy dressing. | @tasteLUVnourish on

Beluga Lentil Salad with Hearts of Palm and Avocado

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons whole grain mustard (Dijon is great too)
1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 cup black lentils, rinsed and sorted
1/2 small red onion, finely diced
14 ounce can whole hearts of palm, diced
1 avocado, diced and tossed with 1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, diced
3 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped

In a small bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients until combined. Set aside.

Bring 3 cups of water and the lentils to a boil in a medium pot. Simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, until tender. Drain, rinse quickly with cold water.

Combine all of the ingredients together in a medium bowl, toss gently with the dressing to combine. Chill for at least an hour before serving.

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