November 20, 2014

Salad of Beluga Lentils with Roasted Butternut Squash

Healthy Holiday Recipes; vegan & gluten-free

I began writing and posting recipes to this site with the sole purpose of sharing more healthful options for your dining pleasure. Sure we all love to sink our teeth into buttery cream laden dishes during the holidays, but even during the holidays my most requested and popular recipes tend to be those that offer seasonal flavors without all of the fat and sugar. I tend to prepare my standard favorites for the holiday table year after year, but still try to add new fare into the mix. More often than not I try to make the new additions healthier dishes like this salad made with super nutritious lentils bejeweled with roasted butternut squash and pomegranate seeds.

In the past few years I have shared a variety of my recent Holiday Menu Favorites with you from the crowd pleasing Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad to my truly inspired recipe for No Cream Creamed Spinach. This year I am, believe it or not, not cooking Thanksgiving dinner. This does not mean that I am not cooking a holiday meal for my family, but on Thanksgiving day I will be relaxing as a guest in the home of friends. For the first time in years I will find out what it feels like to be the person who is not in the kitchen. Even though I love preparing holiday meals, I have to admit that I am relishing in the fact that I will have the time to work out, take a shower before three in the afternoon, and spend the remainder of my day by the fire with a good mystery thriller. Its almost too good to be true. But being the person that I am, I still cannot keep myself from wanting to contribute to the meal in some way. This salad made with beluga lentils, roasted butternut squash, and pomegranate is a great dish to bring as a guest as it can be prepared ahead of time and does not require precious oven space. It also happens to be loaded with nutrient dense ingredients offering a kind balance to this otherwise heavy meal.

Like their name, beluga lentils are the caviar of lentils. They are beautiful, delicious, and super healthy. They are also almost twice as high in protein and higher in fiber than that of other lentil varieties.  Additionally, they cook quickly and hold their shape without becoming mushy making them ideal for salads of all sorts. Like other orange fleshed vegetables, butternut squash is a potent source of the antioxidants alpha-carotene and beta-carotene. They are pro vitamin A carotenoids which help the body convert the carotenes into vitamin A. Vitamin A is known to boost immunities, reverse skin damage, and is essential for healthy vision . They are also a great source of dietary fiber, vitamins C and E, and the minerals potassium and magnesium which help to promote strong bones. The high levels of antioxidants in these orange fleshed vegetables have shown to help reduce blood cholesterol, fight cancer, and reduce menopausal symptoms. Pomegranate is loaded with antioxidants, B vitamins, potassium, and folic acid. They are a great vegan source of iron and the seeds are high in dietary fiber. They are also anti-inflammatory and have been proven to help fight cancer as well as cardiovascular disease.

Salad of Beluga Lentils with Roasted Butternut Squash

Serves 8-12

For all ingredients please consider using those that have been grown organically.

1 1/2 cups beluga lentils
1 medium butternut squash, roasted
2 medium pomegranates, seeded or about 1 1/2-2 cups seeds
1 cup unsalted pistachio kernels, toasted
2 tablespoons fresh chervil or parsley, chopped
6-10 ounces baby spinach, mâche, mixed baby greens, or massaged lacinato kale
3-4 tablespoons Mustard Vinaigrette

Rinse the lentils and put into a saucepan over medium-high heat with about 4 cups of water or enough to cover the lentils by about 2 inches. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes. They should still be firm, but soft in the middle. Drain the lentils in a strainer and set aside to cool completely. Season to taste with sea salt and set aside. At this point, the lentils can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Prepare the butternut squash. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Use a peeler or a knife to peel the rind from the squash. Slice across the squash about 1/3 from the bottom where it starts to narrow. Usually the bulbous bottom part of the squash is where the seeds are and the upper neck portion is free of seeds. Use a spoon to scoop the seeds and pulp from the squash as best as you can manage. Cut the squash into slices about 1/4-1/3 inch thick and across into a dice. You might find that the center core portion of the longer neck of the squash is a bit spongy. Discard that piece. Toss the prepared squash pieces with olive oil, salt, and pepper on a baking sheet. Roast for 20-25 minutes or until the pieces are slightly browned and caramelized. For further detailed information and step by step photographs of preparing the squash see my recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash. At this point, the prepared squash can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

If you are seeding the pomegranate from fresh whole pomegranates, I suggest purchasing one of my absolute favorite kitchen gadgets, The Pomegranate Tool. For directions on how to use the tool see my recipe for Pomegranate and Citrus Salad with Brussels Sprouts. At this point, the seeds can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the prepared lentils, butternut squash, and pomegranate.

Add the fresh herbs and combine.

If you are preparing the salad ahead of time, either wait to combine the greens and the lentil mixture or top the greens with the lentil mixture and cover with plastic wrap. When it is time to serve the salad add the pistachios and dressing to taste and toss to combine.

As much as I like the addition of the greens to this dish, I have to admit that the lentil mixture is fantastic on its own with just a bit of dressing. It will also hold up much longer on a buffet table as well as in the refrigerator.


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Categories: Beans & Legumes, Fall & Winter, Gluten Free, Salads, Vegetables

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