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The 80-degree temperatures earlier this week have sent my cooking compass into a swivet. I’m not quite ready to shut off the oven or to turn on the grill, but I wouldn’t mind dining outside. I’m ready for all of the spring produce—asparagus, radishes, ramps, favas—but I know (at least up here in upstate New York) they’re weeks away from hitting the markets. I’m tired of stews, but not ready for gazpacho.
So when I saw this lentil salad with roasted cauliflower and radicchio in the new Food52 Mighty Salads, I thought: this is exactly what I want to be eating right now. It’s warm meets cool, tender meets crisp, winter meets spring (thanks to a tarragon shower at the end). I made it two nights in a row after discovering it, and have made several variations since. It holds up beautifully in the fridge, and every time I make it, I have a hard time on subsequent mornings not dipping into the leftovers by 10 a.m., willing the lunch hour to arrive sooner. It’s so satisfying.
Now, don’t be intimidated by the ingredient list here. The whole salad, which is a meal, can be assembled in about the time it takes to roast the cauliflower. Note, too, this isn’t a hands-off-once-the-vegetables-are-roasting process. Emily Connor, longtime Food52er and creator of many of the book's mighty salads, keeps you busy: first you put on a pot of lentils, which will finish cooking at about the same time as the cauliflower. While the lentils simmer, you toast walnuts, and then you make a dressing of minced anchovies, shallots, mustard, honey, balsamic, and oil. It’s sharp, sweet, and textured, too, due to a handful of currants you whisk directly into the dressing.
After you’ve made this once, the assembly becomes second nature: roast vegetables, cook lentils, make a dressing, chop herbs and nuts, crumble in goat cheese. And once your prep is done, you may even find time to tidy up your kitchen or to toast a second batch of nuts, if say, you burn the first (oops). You may also have time to briefly macerate the shallots and the anchovies in the vinegar to draw out a little more of their flavor—not that this salad wants for anything more.
For the Salad:
- 1 small head cauliflower, cut into small florets (450 g), see notes above
- 3 teaspoons olive oil, plus more as needed
- 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or freshly ground black pepper
- kosher salt
- 1/2 cup French green lentils, rinsed
- 1 bay leaf, if you have it
- 1/3 cup walnuts or more to taste
- 1 head radicchio, cored and chopped
- 1/4 to 1/2 cups coarsely chopped fresh tarragon
- 3 ounces goat cheese
For the Dressing:
- 3 anchovy fillets
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons minced shallots
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, plus more as needed
- 1/2 teaspoon honey
- 3 tablespoons currants or more to taste