I promise you that this very healthy looking bowl with its very healthy sounding title is not a punishment for any terrible food sins I've committed lately. It's most definitely not to make up for the 5 slices of pizza I had on Saturday night (ok they were from a mini-pie, but still!), the four handfuls of M&M's I gobbled while making an oddly creative cake with a candy center cutout for a cake walk at my daughter's school last week, or the taco chips I promised to only eat 1 or two of and then found that the bag was half empty! Nor is it to be PC, farm to table, vegan, gluten-free or any other current food trend. The reason I'm sharing this bowl of goodness with you is that it's flat out fantastic! Really! So despite its overly nutritious appearance, I think you're going to want to give this a try. Even my non-lentil loving people gobbled up their bowl!
So...this is a salad but to call this a salad really isn't fair because it's so much more than that and can totally be enjoyed as a really terrific high-protein vegetarian main dish or as a hearty side. And while I think it's best served warm, it's delish right out of the fridge as well and makes a great next-day quickie lunch. And it really highlights all the wonderful asparagus that's in season now too, so don't procrastinate about making this for too long.
The combination of the slightly caramelized roasted asparagus, the chewy earthiness of the lentils, the crunch of the pecans and the freshness of the herbs, all coated in a simple Dijon vinaigrette is "go-back for seconds" good! Plus there's something fun about eating your meal out of a bowl which is nothing really new but seems to be all the rage these days--you've no doubt seen the burrito bowls at Chipotle and the breakfast and smoothie bowls that seem to be all over the internet.
No, the reason you make this is that you feel so good and virtuous after you eat it and if a bite or two of dessert happens to fall into your mouth later that night, you can enjoy it with a clear conscience, knowing you've already done yourself right that day!
Roasted Asparagus and Lentil Bowl
Makes 4 servings--you might need to supplement with other food if you're serving this for dinner especially to hungry teenage boys!!
Prep Time: Less than one hour
For the Veggie mixture
1/2 cup dried black or French green lentils
1 1/2 cups water or low-salt vegetable broth (I used water)
2 large bunches of asparagus--it's better if you don't use the pencil thin kind here, trimmed at the ends and cut on the diagonal into 2 inch pieces
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
For the Dressing
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, toasted
A handful of chopped fresh herbs-- I used a mixture of chives and parsley but basil or dill would be nice too
1. Make sure the rack is centered in the oven and preheat to 450ºF.
2. Rinse the lentils and place them in a medium pot. Add the water or broth and bring them to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cook them for about 20 minutes, until they're tender but not mushy. Drain and place in a large bowl.
3. Meanwhile, place the asparagus in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet (use two baking sheets if you can't fit all of them in one layer on a single sheet) and pour 2 tablespoons olive oil over them. Sprinkle on the salt and pepper and toss well. Roast for about 15 minutes, turning once or twice, until the pieces have blackened spots on them. Remove from the oven and place in the bowl with the lentils.
4. To make the dressing: Place the mustard, shallot, olive oil, white balsamic vinegar and a pinch of salt and pepper into a small bowl and whisk together well.
5. Add the pecans and fresh herbs to the bowl with the lentils and asparagus. Pour the dressing over everything and toss to coat. Serve warm, room temperature or chilled.
Note: Recipe adapted from The Sprouted Kitchen Bowl+Spoon by Sara Forte. I tinkered around a lot with this and you should feel free to also. I cut the dried oregano from the asparagus, subbed in pecans for walnuts and made a few other little tweaks too.