It’s worthy of a table-side show, this wilted spinach and green lentil salad. You could wear a tie and roll a cart alongside the linen draped table. The cart would be set for the fanfare–a large bowl of spinach leaves, and smaller bowls of thinly sliced red onions, seasoned green lentils, toasted pecans, and shaved Cheddar cheese.
Even if you make this salad for just you and your sweetie, all but the showwoman/man should be seated, waiting in anticipation. Five minutes is all it takes to lightly wilt spinach and toss everything together. After they get a bite of peppery lentils over glistening, barely warm spinach, your guests will agree this rustic yet elegant salad is worth any wait. Popeye wouldn’t know what to think.
In classic table-side spinach salad, hot bacon dressing wilts and sliced hard-boiled eggs garnish. This vegetarian turn of wilted spinach salad is just as impressive. For vegans, omit the cheese garnish.
Our Ranui Gardens CSA is currently serving up spinach that has large green crinkled, partly smooth leaves. The varietal is named Space—the seed that’s the final frontier of spinach breeding. Really, I read it here.
If your spinach leaves are large, as with the Space spinach, strip away the tough stems and tear the leaves in half. Baby spinach leaves can substitute for larger spinach, though take care to remove the pan from the heat before adding baby leaves, which will wilt in quick seconds.
I’ve made this salad 4 times this week. The first 3 tries, I accidentally forgot one ingredient or another. First it was the vinegar—so the salad lacked pizzazz. Then, whoops, the pecans–no crunch. When I turned off the camera thinking it was a wrap, I remembered the cheese, all prepped in the fridge. Argh! (Taking photos of warm and wilting spinach competes for the cook’s attention.)
Lesson learned. Have all ingredients prepped, lined up and ready. Keep in mind that hungry people waiting at the table can also distract from the task at hand.
At the very last minute, when you twist that pepper grinder over the top, expect awe and praise for your cooking prowess with this spectacular wilted spinach and green lentil salad.
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This simple and elegantly rustic salad is perfect for dinner on a hot summer evening.
- ½ cup French green lentils
- 1 bay leaf
- ¼ teaspoon Real Salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup very thinly sliced red onion
- 8 ounces fresh spinach leaves, washed and dried (see note)
- 1 tablespoon balsamic or sherry wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons toasted pecans halves
- Aged Cheddar cheese, optional
- Rinse the lentils, sorting out any rogue mini rocks.
- Put the lentils in a saucepan and cover with water at least 2 inches above the lentils. Add the bay leaf and salt and bring to a boil.
- Cook until the lentils are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Be careful not to overcook them or they will loose their shape and texture. (see note)
- Drain, discarding the bay leaf.
- Toss with the first 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.
- Warm a non-stick skillet over very low heat. Add the remaining olive oil and the red onions. Stir, keeping the heat low.
- After a few minutes, when the onions start to make a sizzling noise, add the spinach leaves and lentils, all at once.
- Gently toss until the spinach wilts a bit and the leaves are lightly coated with oil. You want the spinach to wilt around the edges but retain some crunch.
- Toss with the vinegar and pecans. Season to taste with salt.
- Divide among individual serving plates. Garnish with cheese shavings, if using.
- Serve immediately.
- If your spinach leaves are large, strip away the tough stems and tear the leaves in half. Baby spinach leaves can substitute, though take care to remove the pan from the heat before adding baby leaves, which will wilt in quick seconds.
- At higher altitudes it will take more time for the lentils to cook.