Chickpea and Lentil Salad with Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette

serves 6-8

For the Vinaigrette

12 oil packed sun-dried tomatoes

1 garlic clove, minced

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the Salad

4 cups cold water

1 cup French green lentils, picked through and rinsed

1 (19-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 medium red onion, finely diced

1 red bell pepper, finely diced

1/2 large English cucumber, seeded and finely diced

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chiffonade

For the Vinaigrette

In the bowl of a food processor, puree the sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, Parmesan, salt and pepper to a thick paste.  With the motor running, add the oil slowly through the feed tube until the dressing is emulsified.  Taste for seasoning; set aside.

In a large saucepan, bring the water and lentils to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes or until the lentils are tender, but not losing their skins.  Thoroughly drain them in a colander then spread them out on a large rimmed baking sheet to cool slightly; transfer to a large bowl.

Add the chickpeas, red onion, bell pepper, and cucumber to the lentils; toss to combine.  Pour the vinaigrette over the mixture and toss until the legumes and vegetables are evenly coated.  Sprinkle the basil over the salad and toss gently to avoid bruising the basil.  Taste for seasoning.

Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour for the flavors to develop.  Serve chilled or at room temperature with a drizzle of additional balsamic vinegar if needed.  Enjoy!

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