Today’s recipe for roasted carrot and lentil salad with creamy avocado dressing is actually not a salad. I say this emphatically, with meaning: it is not a salad.
It can’t be a salad, because if it were a salad, there would be leafy greens, right? A bed of curly, dark purple and green leaves would line the plate, and perched on top would be mostly raw vegetables. If it were a salad of that ilk, my daughter Meimei wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole. And that’s why this roasted carrot and lentil salad is definitely not a salad, because Meimei eats this dish like she just escaped from prison.
The key, of course, to making these veggies appear together on a plate without squeals of protest from a five-year-old is to make sure you have adorable carrots. Adorable carrots are carrots that are squat with little green trimmed tops, like these Chantenay carrots or long, finger-sized carrots with wispy tops, like the kind I found at our neighborhood grocery store. Maybe the adorable carrots in your grocery store are purple. Whatever they look like, get ’em. Sure, they might cost a little more, but you really only need a handful, so you really should treat yourself.
Adorable carrots are key because when you present this dish at your dinner table, you can concoct an elaborate story about how these carrots actually belong to Peter Rabbit, and he delivered them especially for you, dear little one who normally recoils at the sight of veggies. Of course, if you’re serving this dish for adults, there’s no need for the elaborate tale; these carrots just make for a nicer presentation, and tend to be sweeter than the bigger versions.
Green lentils should also be an easy sell. Also known as Puy lentils, these green lentils are a family favorite of ours. They’re easy to cook and, when simmered, retain a crunchier texture than their red or yellow counterparts. I love Puy lentils so much that sometimes I serve them warm tossed with lemon juice, olive oil, parsley and a little bit of salt and pepper. Bellissimo!
To top off this roasted carrot and lentil salad, I whip up a creamy avocado dressing using the ripest avocados I have on hand with some fresh dill, yogurt and lemon juice. My kids are addicted to this creamy avocado dressing, and I usually make tons of extra so that we can have it as a dip with crudites during the week. This avocado dressing is cool, silky and has just the right enough zing to brighten up the roasted carrots and lentils.
And, if it makes my Meimei eat her veggies with righteous conviction, then I am all for it.
- 1 bunch of miniature carrots, washed thoroughly but not peeled (about 1 pound/500g)
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 2 cups Puy (French green) lentils, rinsed
- 1 cucumber, diced
- 1 very ripe avocado
- 1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and minced, then crushed with the flat side of your knife
- 1 small handful of dill, rinsed and chopped
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (200 degrees Celsius). Toss the carrots with olive oil, salt and pepper, and then spread the carrots evenly in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with foil. Slide the tray into the oven and roast the carrots for 15-20 minutes until the carrots are tender when pierced with a fork. Remove the tray from the oven and set aside to allow the carrots to cool slightly.
- While the carrots are roasting, pour the Puy lentils into a small stock pot and cover with water. Bring the lentils to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, then lower the heat to simmer for 20-25 minutes until the lentils are tender but not mushy. Drain the lentils and rinse with cold water; set aside.
- In a food processor, add chunks of avocado, the Greek yogurt, lemon juice, chopped dill, garlic and salt and pepper. Pulse until the mixture is smooth and add cold water, a tablespoon at at time, if the dressing is too thick. Taste the dressing and add salt and pepper.
- To assemble the salad, layer the Puy lentils and diced cucumbers on a plate, then arrange the carrots on top. Drizzle with the avocado dressing and serve.