Charred Broccoli and Lentil Salad

By • September 22, 2014 36 Comments

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Author Notes: This spunky little salad is inspired by an Instagram post from Gramercy Tavern. The dish was "charred broccoli slaw," and the moment I read "charred broccoli," I knew I wanted to create a salad around that idea. Rather than go in the slaw direction, I chose lentils for heft -- plus, lentils and broccoli are one of those tried-and-true pairings that never disappoint. For the broccoli, I thinly sliced it (akin to making a slaw), tossed it with olive oil, and gave it a quick run under the broiler. The thin pieces get charred and crispy and nestle up perfectly with the lentils. I opted for a tahini dressing because I wanted something bold enough to stand up to the charred flavors and keep each bite interesting. This is the type of salad I’d happily eat for dinner with some crusty bread and then pack for my lunch the next day. It’s even better once the flavors have had a chance to meld.EmilyC

Food52 Review: WHO: We’re still talking about EmilyC’s Grilled Bread Salad with Broccoli Rabe and Summer Squash. (Really, we are.)
WHAT: A very good reason to make sure you’re always stocked with broccoli, lentils, and tahini.
HOW: While you simmer lentils with onion and bay leaves, broil thinly-sliced broccoli in the oven until crispy and browning. Now make magic: Combine the broccoli and lentils, dress them with a smoky and spicy tahini dressing, and top the salad with pistachios and crumbled feta.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Charred broccoli is the oven’s gift to mankind, and this meal-appropriate salad gives us one more reason to sing its praises. Smoky and sweet, spicy and salty, crunchy and creamy, it’s got everything we want in an autumn salad -- and there are no wilting leaves in sight.
The Editors

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Makes about 6 cups of salad

For the salad:

  • 2 cups dried French green lentils
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and halved
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 2 medium heads of broccoli
  • Olive oil, for roasting
  • 1 cup shredded carrots, from 2 to 3 carrots
  • 2 ounces Bulgarian or another creamy, mild feta, cut into small cubes
  • 1 big handfuls Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped

For smoky tahini dressing:

  • 1 medium garlic clove, crushed
  • 3 tablespoons well-stirred tahini
  • 3 tablespoons water, or more to adjust consistency
  • 1 roasted piquillo or red bell pepper, seeds removed
  • 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses (or lesser amount of honey, to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Red pepper flakes and salt, to taste
  1. To cook lentils: Rinse lentils and discard any pebbles. Place lentils, onion, bay leaves in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water by at least 1 inch. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. Add additional liquid if needed. Drain the lentils, discarding the onion and bay leaves.
  2. To make tahini dressing: Using a blender or an immersion blender, combine all ingredients and blend until smooth, adding more water if needed to thin the dressing. Adjust seasoning to taste. Set aside until ready to use. Dressing can be made in advance and refrigerated, tightly covered, for up to three days.
  3. To make broccoli: Remove leaves and trim the stem of any discolored areas. Cut head into quarters. Use a mandolin, the slicing blade of a food processor, or a sharp knife to cut the broccoli, stem and florets, into 1/4-inch slices. Place the broccoli (including the little florets that break off while slicing) on a sturdy sheet pan, season with salt, and toss generously with olive oil. Spread out in an even layer. Place the broccoli under the broiler until it’s tender and charred and crispy in spots, about 3 to 5 minutes, shaking the pan once or twice. Watch it closely -- the thin pieces will cook quickly.
  4. To assemble salad: In a large bowl, toss the lentils and carrots with the tahini dressing, a little at a time, until the lentils are evenly coated. You may not need the full amount of dressing. Taste for seasoning -- add more salt or a splash of sherry vinegar if needed. Fold in the broccoli, then the parsley and feta. Add the pistachios before serving so that they don’t get soft. Serve warm or at room temperature. Tightly covered, the salad will keep well in the refrigerator for several days.

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