This salad is the type of dish that I'm drawn to this time of year – particularly when I want something healthy yet hearty and satisfying. Its preparation is all about layering flavours and textures, which can make even the humblest ingredients special and indulgent. Lentils and mushrooms are a tried-and-true pairing, and you could stop there, but I love the textural contrast and nuttiness provided by the toasted orzo. The orzo is cooked with lots of lemon zest, which ends up perfuming the entire dish. It could be used as a side dish to fish or meat or just served as it is! To be honest, leftovers make a perfect lunch the next day!
· 1/4 cups orzo
· 2 tablespoons olive oil
· lemon zest and juice (reserved) from 1 large lemon
· 1 1/2 cup green lentils, rinsed and cleaned
· 1 bay leaf
· 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
· 2 carrots, cut into small pieces dice (about 1 cup)
· 1 celery rib, cut into small pieces (about 1/2 cup)
· 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
· 1 C mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed, and sliced
· 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
· 1 tablespoon lemon juice
· 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
· 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
· 1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
· kosher salt + freshly ground black pepper
1. Start with the orzo: In large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add orzo; cook, stirring, until golden, 5 to 7 minutes.
2. Add 2 cups water and lemon zest, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until orzo is al dente and liquid is absorbed, 10 to 15 minutes.
3. If orzo is cooked but liquid remains, drain the orzo, return to pan, and cook about 30 seconds longer over low heat to dry the orzo.
4. To make green lentils: In a medium saucepan, bring lentils, 3 cups water, and bay leaf to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until tender but not falling apart, about 20 to 30 minutes.
5. While orzo and lentils are cooking, heat another pan and add 1 T of olive oil, onion, carrots, celery, thyme, and a pinch of salt and pepper, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are just softened, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add mushrooms and sauté until tender and most of liquid has evaporated, about another 7 to 10 minutes.
6. Make vinaigrette by whisking together lemon juice, vinegar, dijon, and salt and pepper to taste. Add olive oil in a slow motion, whisking until blended well.
7. Add the lentils and orzo, parsley, and vinaigrette (a bit at a time), stirring, until just warmed through. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and more lemon juice if you like.
8. Salad is ready and yummy!