Now that spring is just around the corner, I’m experiencing an insatiable craving for all things green. I want fresh, green salads and light meals, and I can’t wait for sunny walks with Cookie under big, leafy trees.
Just this morning I squinted at the field across the street, which had been covered under a thick layer of snow like the Arctic tundra last week, and thought it might be turning a shade of pale green. And were those little green shoots emerging from the ground the beginning of daffodils? Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but at least I can fill up on fresh green produce while I wait.
For all the cookbooks and magazines and blogs I read, sometimes the inspiration for my recipes comes from happenstance. A couple weeks ago, during the marathon lentil meatball recipe testing, I served the latest batch alongside a simple arugula and parmesan salad. We roasted up some broccoli, and since we didn’t have room on our plates with the meatballs, we shrugged and tossed it on the salad. I knew we had stumbled onto something good at first bite—the roasted broccoli’s crispy, caramelized edges perfectly complemented the fresh green salad.
I made up this more elaborate (yet unfussy) version not long afterward, and it turned out the way I wanted on the first try. Black lentils add some substance and textural interest, while the lemony vinaigrette wakes up the roasted vegetables. I added brussels sprouts to the roasting pan this time, which are surely delicious, but the crispy broccoli really steals the show.
Don’t be afraid to let the cruciferous vegetables bake until they are well toasted on the outside; they aren’t burnt when they have brown edges, but irresistibly caramelized instead. They become their roasty-toasty best when you spread them over the baking sheet with ample room around each piece. Mine as shown here were a little overcrowded, but that’s what happens when your mini oven can’t accommodate a full-sized baking pan. C’est la vie.
- 1½ pounds broccoli
- ¾ pound brussels sprouts (or more broccoli)
- olive oil
- ½ cup black beluga lentils (or green/Puy lentils), picked through and rinsed
- several handfuls arugula
- ½ cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ lemon, juiced
- 1 teaspoon honey
- ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- pinch red pepper flakes
- sea salt and ground pepper
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and line your largest rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the broccoli florets into bite-sized pieces. Trim the ends off the sprouts; cut the small sprouts in two through the stem, and the large sprouts into quarters. Toss the florets and sprouts in olive oil so they are lightly coated, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread the florets and sprouts in a single layer on the baking sheet (be sure not to overcrowd). Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, tossing halfway, until the vegetables are crisp-tender and well caramelized on the edges.
- In the meantime, bring ¾ cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the lentils, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until the lentils are tender but still retain their shape.
- Whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients while the roasted vegetables and lentils cool a bit. In a large serving bowl, combine the roasted vegetables, cooked lentils and arugula. Drizzle with vinaigrette, sprinkle in the Parmesan and toss well. Taste and add more salt, pepper and/or lemon juice if needed. Best served immediately.
- Salad is best served immediately, but you can store leftovers in the fridge, covered, and brighten them up with another squeeze of lemon when you’re ready to polish them off.
- Serves 2 as an entrée or 4 as a side.