My friend Olga makes a lentil salad that nobody can stop eating. Yes, lentils. A salad. I can feel your skepticism through this computer screen (it’s my single superpower) but please feel assured that I would never lie to you, about lentils especially. Her recipe is one of the greatest Trader Joe’s “hacks” of all time: 1 package of their prepared lentils, 1 jar of their bruschetta topping, and then Olga always adds more chopped tomatoes, cilantro, and avocado.
The only change I make at home is that instead using the jarred topping, I use a half-batch of my Quick, Easy Salsa, a quick blend of white onion, garlic, cilantro, jalapeño, and lime that turns the most basic can of tomatoes into a perfect bowl of salsa. Here, it’s the dressing; we add hot sauce to taste and then we scoop it up with tortilla chips, usually standing in the kitchen. It’s one of my favorite workday lunches and it’s absolutely not right or fair that I’ve taken as long as I have to tell you about it. You can send all sternly-worded letters of dismay directly to the editor (it me) and she will nod her head in full agreement. I can’t wait for you to get hooked on this, too.
6 months ago: Frozen Strawberry Daiquiris
1 year ago: Lemon and Lime Mintade
2 years ago: Roasted Squash and Tofu with Ginger
3 years ago: Plush Coconut Cake
4 years ago: Sheet Pan Meatballs with Crispy Turmeric Chickpeas
5 years ago: Chocolate Dutch Baby
6 years ago: Blood Orange, Almond, and Ricotta Cake and Cabbage and Sausage Casserole
7 years ago: Key Lime Pie and Make Your Own Vanilla Extract
8 years ago: Pear and Hazelnut Muffins and Warm Lentil and Potato Salad
9 years ago: Lentil Soup with Sausage, Chard, and Garlic
10 years ago: Buttermilk Roast Chicken
11 years ago: Baked Potato Soup
12 years ago: Black Bean Soup + Toasted Cumin Seed Crema and Cranberry Syrup and an Intensely Almond Cake
13 years ago: Clementine Cake and Mushroom Bourguignon
14 years ago: Chicken Caesar Salad and Fried Chicken
15 years ago: Grapefruit Yogurt Cake
My Favorite Lentil Salad
- 2 1/2 cups cooked, cooled small green, brown, or black lentils [see Note at end]
- One 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
- 1/2 a large or 1 small white onion, chopped
- 1 to 2 fresh jalapeños, to taste, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, divided
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 lime, juiced, plus more to taste
- 1 large firm-ripe avocado, diced
- 2 cups (about a 12-ounce package) cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
- Hot sauce, to taste
- Tortilla chips for serving (optional)
Place onion, jalapeño, and garlic in a blender or food processor [see Note at end] and run the machine in short bursts until they’re in smaller bits. Add two-thirds (just eyeball it) cilantro, drained tomatoes, salt, and juice of one lime and run the machine until the tomatoes are well-chopped but not totally smooth. When making salsa for scooping up with chips, I will add some of the reserved tomato juices, a tablespoon at a time, if the mixture is very thick, but to dress this lentil salad, we don’t want it very thin. Adjust seasoning to ensure it’s robust enough to dress the lentils, adding salt, pepper, and more lime juice, if needed to taste.
Place lentils in a big bowl. If they’re from a vacuum-pack, use your fingers to break up clumps. (I find a spoon or fork damages the lentils too much.) Add 1 1/2 cups of tomato mixture to the lentils and stir to combine. Taste and add more salsa to taste; I usually go with a full 2 cups. Season with salt and black pepper to taste, and add more lime juice if desired. Add avocado, tomatoes, and reserved cilantro and stir gently to combine. Serve with hot sauce and tortilla chips, if you wish.
Leftovers keep for 5 days in the fridge.