Vegetarian Lentil Nicoise Salad
A hearty, vegetarian take on the classic Nicoise Salad. A zesty lemon, dill and caper dressing served atop crisp green beans, bite sized potatoes and perfectly cooked eggs. Extras keep well for delicious lunches throughout the week. Gluten Free. <jump to recipe>
Some say that baking your own wedding cake is ambitious. But how about cooking the entire meal, from start to finish? That’s what Anguel and I asked when we first started planning our wedding. And we were promptly told that was the most insane idea we’ve ever had. You know what? It totally was, but we did it anyways.
After deciding we were indeed going to cater our own wedding, the next step was planning out the fully vegetarian menu. Of our entire guest list, there were only two other non-meaters, so we definitely had a challenge ahead of us. The food needed to be delicious and satisfying for everyone - and we needed to be able to prep most of it in advance. We tested a version of this Nicoise Salad in the early days, and tinkered with the recipe quite a bit in the months leading up to the wedding. Which is to be expected when you make it over a dozen times. We added french lentils for a bit of extra oomph, changed the ratios (more potatoes, less green beans), improved the dressing, and streamlined the cooking process. This is the version that’s here to stay.
Not only does this dish look visually impressive (perfect for serving guests), but it’s also absolutely delicious. The fresh lemon, dill and caper dressing is zippy and refreshing. And there really is something for everyone: crisp veggies, creamy bite-sized potatoes, salty olives, protein-packed lentils and eggs. We call it a “salad”, but it’s really more of a main dish. All the stunning colors and textures are enough to make anyone forget about the meat; instead they can focus on scooping their own perfect combination of ingredients. Really like green beans? Go crazy. Don’t like olives? Just don’t pick up any of those for your plate. It’s a choose your own adventure kind of dish, in the best way possible. Also, leftovers keep well in containers, so pack up extras or meal prep this recipe for easy lunches and dinners throughout the week.
There are a handful of of components in this salad, but don’t get discouraged. It isn’t nearly as difficult to put together as you might think. While the lentils are cooking away, you’ll use a second pot of salted boiling water to quickly cook the potatoes, green beans and eggs in batches. An ice bath (i.e. big bowl of ice & cold water) is recommended to quickly cool the cooked components. For the green beans, it helps to retain the bright colour. But, ultimately if you want you can skip this step you can, just be sure to rinse with cold water and pay extra attention to avoid overcooking. While your veggies cook, you can whip up the dressing. The hardest part is just making sure you have all the ingredients - then toss everything in a jar and give it a good shake. To save yourself time on day-of, you can prep the individual components in advance. Then all you need to do is assemble, which just means laying out all the pretty, colorful veggies onto a plate and drizzle with the remaining dressing.
We use eggs in this dish to make it a bit heftier for the crowd, and we find the colour and texture quite hard to substitute here. However, to make this recipe vegan, omit the eggs and swap the honey for another liquid sweetener of choice (like maple syrup).
VEGETARIAN LENTIL NICOISE SALAD
Serves 4 - gluten free
3/4 cup French lentils (150 g)
1 lb new (baby) potatoes
1 lb green beans, ends trimmed
1 cup radishes, quartered
3 tablespoons Kalamata or Nicoise olives
2 tablespoons shallots, minced
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil*
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil*
2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped + extra for garnish
2 teaspoons grainy mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Rinse and strain French lentils. Transfer lentils to a small pot, and fill with enough water to cover lentils by 2-3 inches. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer, and cook covered for approximately 20 minutes or until lentils are tender (do not overcook). Strain and set aside.
Meanwhile, prepare ice bath by filling a large bowl of water with ice and cold water. Then, fill at least half of a large pot with salted water. Add the new potatoes, cover with lid and bring to a boil. Cook potatoes until fork tender (usually 10-15 minutes, once water is boiling). Scoop out potatoes once cooked (reserve water in pot) and submerge potatoes an in ice bath.
Bring the large pot of salted water back up to a boil. Add green beans and cook for 2 minutes, until bright green and tender (but still crisp). Use tongs or a slotted spoon to remove green beans (reserve water in pot) and submerge into the ice bath. Once both the potatoes and green beans are cooled, scoop them out of the ice bath and put in a colander to strain. Don’t dump out the ice bath yet, you’ll use it for the eggs.
Gently lower the eggs into the large pot of boiling water. Cook for 8 minutes, then transfer into the now-empty ice bath to cool until cold enough to handle. Peel eggs. Cut into quarters.
While the eggs cook, you can assemble the dressing. Add all the dressing ingredients (shallots, lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, grapeseed oil, capers, fresh dill, grainy mustard, dijon mustard, honey, salt, black pepper) into a jar. Close the jar and give it a good shake. Alternatively whisk together in a small bowl.
Put the green beans in a bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of prepared dressing, then toss to coat evenly. Arrange green beans on serving platter. Next, use the same bowl to dress the lentils. Add the cooked lentils and 1/4 cup of prepared dressing. Stir gently to mix, then transfer lentils to the serving platter. Coat the potatoes with 2 tablespoons of dressing, then put on serving platter. Top platter with eggs, radishes, and olives. Drizzle remaining dressing on top and garnish with extra dill, if desired.
-*Since olive oil tends to more readily solidify in the fridge, we use a mix of olive oil and grapeseed oil to keep the dressing loose when stored in the fridge. If you are serving immediately and don’t need to store leftovers in fridge, you can replace the grapeseed oil with extra olive oil.
Recipe adapted from Epicurious Green Bean Nicoise Salad