Warm Lamb and Lentil Salad

Warm Lamb and Lentil Salad | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Warm Lamb and Lentil Salad | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Warm Lamb and Lentil Salad | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

I have never really liked lentils. When I was young, lentils and beans both had this texture (I think from cooking them into oblivion until they became mushy and grainy) that I just couldn’t stand. And so I stopped eating them, simple as that. Mexican food became a slight challenge (back then, it was because I didn’t like beans, now it’s because I can’t eat corn), but I mostly got away with it. Beans re-entered my life when I started living with my friend Carmelle and she made the most amazing refried beans and vegetarian chili. But lentils… I still couldn’t get behind. I hadn’t ever had them and thought, “Now those are good lentils!”

Recently though, my sister has been on a microbiome and gut-health kick, telling us all that we should be eating this or that, sending us articles and books to read. And when she sent along a recipe for lentils on our family WhatsApp thread, I told her I didn’t really eat lentils. She proceeded to yell at me (as much as one can yell via text) and tell me that lentils are good for you and that I should be eating them. It also happens that around this time, I was in the thick of cooking my way through many recipes in Alison Roman’s Dining In. From it, I made a recipe for spiced lentils (used in a rendition of a salad nicoise) that I found to be incredibly delicious. So delicious in fact, that I told the checkout guy at the grocery store that he had to make it immediately, and I let him take a picture of the recipe I had on my phone.

So I was working on liking lentils, and I was off to a really good start. Now I’ve become a person that, instead of cooking a batch of rice or farro on Sunday afternoon for lunches that week, will cook a batch of lentils to be used in salads and bowls or seasoned with oil and herbs for a side. I feel like I don’t even know myself anymore.

As I’ve been looking for other ways to use this batch of lentils, a recipe slowly started formulating in my brain. The warmer weather has got me itching for all food that is representative of spring, and a warm salad with lentils and crispy lamb sprang to mind (pun very much intended). With a little heat from the onion, some creaminess from the yogurt, bites of juiciness from tomatoes, and a little tang from the feta, this recipe became a quick favorite. It’s easy enough to throw together, makes great leftovers, and doesn’t make too many dirty dishes. I think you’ll like it.

Warm Lamb and Lentil Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

Yogurt Sauce

1 cup plain yogurt (not Greek)
1-2 cloves of garlic, grated or finely minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper

Lamb and Lentil Salad

4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
3/4 lbs ground lamb
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 1/2 cup cooked lentils
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup mint leaves, thinly sliced
1 heaping cup halved cherry tomatoes
salt and pepper

Instructions

Yogurt Sauce

In a small bowl, mix the yogurt, garlic, and lemon juice until smooth. Add a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper, and stir again. Taste, and add more garlic, lemon, salt, or pepper to your taste.

Lamb and Lentil Salad

Heat 2 Tbsp of the olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the lamb, garlic, and cumin, plus a hefty pinch of salt and a grind or three of pepper. Cook the lamb, breaking it up with a spoon and stirring occasionally, until it is cooked through and there are a lot of crispy edges and browned bits, about 10 minutes. Transfer the lamb to a medium bowl with a slotted spoon, leaving leftover fat and spices in the pan, and set the bowl aside. Lower the heat to medium and add the lentils to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until warmed through. Use the slotted sport to transfer to the bowl with the lamb.

Add the remaining 2 Tbsp of olive oil and the lemon juice to the lentils and lamb, tossing to coat. Add the red onion, feta cheese, mint, and tomatoes, tossing to combine and coat with the dressing. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

Scoop the yogurt sauce into a wide shallow bowl and spread it around with the back of the spoon. Top with the lamb and lentil salad. Enjoy!

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