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 flavors 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’d be right at home as a side to roasted meat or fish, or served with a green salad and baguette. It’s great for entertaining because it’s equally good warm or at room temperature. Leftovers, if you have any, reheat beautifully and make a perfect brown bag lunch the next day. —EmilyC
4 to 6
1 1/4 cups
lemon zest and juice (reserved) from 1 large lemon
1 1/2 cup
green lentils, rinsed and picked over
bacon, coarsely chopped
medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
carrots, cut into ¼ inch dice (about 1 cup)
celery rib, cut into ¼ inch dice (about 1/2 cup)
fresh thyme, finely chopped
cremini or button mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed, and sliced ¼ inch thick
To make toasted orzo:
In large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add orzo; cook, stirring, until golden, 5 to 7 minutes. 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. 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.
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.
While orzo and lentils are cooking, heat a dutch oven over medium heat. Add 1 T of olive oil, and sauté bacon until brown and crisp, about 8 minutes. Remove bacon with slotted spoon to paper towels. To the bacon fat, add 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.
Make vinaigrette by whisking together lemon juice, vinegar, dijon, and salt and pepper to taste. Add olive oil in a slow stream, whisking until blended well.
Add the lentils and orzo, parsley, and vinaigrette (a bit at a time), stirring, until just warmed through. Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, and more lemon juice if you like.
Sprinkle the mushroom salad with crumbled bacon before serving.