Plans can be tricky. I really like to have them and I like to make them, but keeping them can be difficult. We’ve talked about menu plans which are notorious for needing flexibility. Things happen, people get tired, leftovers need to be consumed. I try to be open to change in our weekly menu and even build it in by having a free night or a night just for leftovers, however when we’ve got people coming to dinner, I really like to have a solid plan, which is to say, I need one to stay sane. Last weekend we had a flurry of visitors, all at the last minute which for me, is so much fun. I’m so happy that people feel like our house is a place where they can just drop in and crash for a night and they know they’ll be welcome. If you know me at all, you know that in these scenarios, I go a little overboard. I switch our toddlers room to a guest room (I set it up to function that way), I go into hyper clean mode and I always offer dinner.
Deciding what to make for dinner guests can be a whole thing for me. I want to make something a little impressive, but not too difficult to execute and it needs to be something that won’t have me stuck in the kitchen all night (although, let’s be honest, with a toddler, those kinds of meals are basically a thing of the past). I usually give it a lot of thought, almost always falling back on some of the dishes I’ve made over and over like a roast chicken or lamb meatballs, but when it’s last minute, I’ve got to just make something. Sometimes, these end up being my favorite meals. Having to just use what I have and forcing myself to get creative sometimes pays off and occasionally it doesn’t. This time, I’m happy that it did.
This lentil salad was my favorite dish from our meal this weekend. I had already roasted and marinated beets a few days prior so all I needed to do was cook some lentils. It ended up being beautiful and even better, delicious. The recipe will give you more beets than you need, but they’re so good you might just snack on them out of the container. Put them on salads, chop them fine and sprinkle them over toast slathered with ricotta or make the best veggie sandwich ever.
Note: The beets need to marinate overnight so you'll need to start this recipe a day ahead.
black lentils with marinated beets + feta // serves 4
- 1 cup black lentils, picked over and rinsed
- 2 cups water
- 3 medium yellow beets
- 3 medium purple beets
- 2 shallots, minced
- olive oil
- sherry vinegar
- kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- scant 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
- 6 ounces sheep’s milk feta, cut into 1/2” cubes
- 1/4 cup raw walnuts
- dill for garnish
- Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the middle. Remove the green tops from the beets and scrub clean under cool water. Place the yellow beets in the middle of a sheet of foil, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Wrap the foil up around the beets and secure at the top, making a packet. Repeat with the purple beets. Place the foil packets onto a sheet pan and roast for one hour. Remove the beets from the oven and let cool for about 5-10 minutes. Unwrap the packets and place each beet under cool water and rub off the skin. Set aside on a large cutting board, not letting the purple beets touch the yellow ones. You can use two separate cutting boards if you'd like.
- In a small bowl, add a 1/2 cup olive oil and 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar. Add the shallots and season liberally with salt and freshly ground pepper.
- Slice the beets into wedges and place in two separate air tight containers (otherwise the yellow beets will turn red). Divide the vinaigrette between the two containers and marinate overnight in the refrigerator. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before using.
- Add the water and lentils to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and bring to a low simmer. Cook until lentils are cooked but still have a bite to them, about 20 minutes. Drain the lentils if there is still water in the pot and season with a small glug of olive and a splash of vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- While the lentils are cooking, toast the walnuts in a dry medium skillet over medium high heat for about 3-4 minutes. Be careful to not turn your back on them, they’ll burn quickly. Let cool and then chop coarsely or just break them apart with your hands.
- Divide the lentils among four bowls and top with both red and yellow beets. Add feta, red onion, sprinkle with walnuts and dill. Spoon over some of the vinaigrette left in the beet containers.