This salad depends on a couple of ingredients. First, the lentils. It's important to use lentils that won't fall apart into mush as they are cooked. French green lentils hold their shape very well, and they would be lovely in this salad. You can also use Umbrian lentils, as I did here, and they have a very nice texture.
Also, don't skip the pomegranate molasses in the dressing; it's the secret ingredient that pulls this all together — a little sweet, a little tangy, and very rich. This salad will keep very well in the refrigerator for up to five days.
Colorful Lentil Salad with Walnuts & Herbs
6 to 8 servings
1 pound (2 to 2 1/4 cups) dry Umbrian or green French lentils
4 cups chicken broth (optional)
1/2 cup dry-packed sun-dried tomatoes
1 large yellow onion
3 bell peppers (ideally a mix of orange, yellow, and red)
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
1 cup flat parsley leaves, roughly chopped
1 cup mint leaves, roughly chopped
1 1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese, divided (omit for a vegan salad)
1 lemon, juiced and zested
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (make sure it is pure pomegranate molasses with no added sugar)
2 teaspoons flaky or kosher salt, or more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Rinse the lentils well and place them in a saucepan. Add the chicken broth, if using, or simply cover them with about 4 cups of water. Salt lightly. Bring to a boil then lower the heat and cover the pot, and cook the lentils for about 25 to 30 minutes. Test them after 20 minutes; cooking time will vary according to freshness and age of the lentils. You should turn off the heat when the lentils are toothsome and tender, but not yet mushy or falling apart. When the lentils are done cooking, spread them out on a baking sheet to cool.
Meanwhile, finely chop the sun-dried tomatoes and place them in a heatsafe container. Pour about 1/2 cup of boiling water over the tomatoes and set them aside to steep.
Dice the onion, and clean out the bell peppers and dice them as well. Finely mince the garlic. Heat about 1/4 cup of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat and add the onion, bell peppers, and garlic. Cook for 4 to 6 minutes, or until the onion is just beginning to be translucent, but the peppers have not yet lost their snap or color.
Turn off the heat and mix the onion mixture with the lentils in a large bowl. Drain the tomatoes (reserve about 1/4 cup of the steeping liquid) and stir them in, as well as the toasted walnuts, chopped parsley and mint, and the lemon zest. Grate about 1 ounce of the Parmesan cheese and stir this in as well.
In a smaller bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, the 1/4 cup of steeping liquid from the sun-dried tomatoes, the lemon juice, and the pomegranate molasses. Toss this dressing with the lentils. Taste for seasoning, and stir in salt and pepper.
Spread the lentils on a serving plate or in a bowl, and use a vegetable peeler to shave the remaining Parmesan into flakes. Sprinkle these over top and serve.