Make Ahead

Charred Broccoli and Lentil Salad

September 22, 2014
19 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 35 minutes
  • Makes 6 cups
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

Test Kitchen Notes

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

What You'll Need
  • For the salad:
  • 2 cups dried French green lentils
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and halved
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 2 medium heads of broccoli
  • 1 dash 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 handful 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
  • 1 pinch 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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Jestei
  • Kathy Hall
    Kathy Hall
  • Melissa Y
    Melissa Y
  • Transcendancing
  • Food odyssea
    Food odyssea

Recipe by: EmilyC

I'm a home cook. I love salads. Two things you'll always find in my refrigerator are lemons and butter, and in my pantry good quality chocolate and the makings for chocolate chip cookies.

47 Reviews

Andi C. September 26, 2021
I've made this numerous times and love it. I add diced onions, chopped pecans and dried cranberries to the salad. For the dressing, include a chopped chiptle, in adobo, pepper with the seeds removed and smoked paprika. This is so versatile.
Andi C. September 26, 2021
Oops! Those ingredients are in the recipe. I mistakenly thought that I had added them. So sorry! This may be my last review ever.
Jestei February 8, 2021
This is delicious. Did not have a bell pepper oh well I hate them. Used date syrup instead of PM because it was open. Recommend salt and pepper to finish. I added a 7 minute egg for each bowl. HUGE HIT WE LOVE.
EmilyC February 9, 2021
Yes to a 7 minute egg on top! So glad you tried and liked this, Jestei. Thanks for your note!
Jestei February 8, 2021
This is delicious. Did not have a bell pepper oh well I hate them. Used date syrup instead of PM because it was open. Recommend salt and pepper to finish. I added a 7 minute egg for each bowl. HUGE HIT WE LOVE
Kathy H. July 17, 2020
My family raved about the salad. I kept the components separate, so everyone can customize their salad. We had it room temp. Will try it warm next time. Very different and filling. Thanks !
EmilyC July 19, 2020
Wonderful -- so glad you and your family enjoyed this! Thanks Kathy!
Melissa Y. October 1, 2019
As other reviewers have mentioned, do yourself a favor and make double the sauce. This might be the best new recipe I've made all year. It keeps forever (not that it will last) and I never tired of eating it. Plus, reheated over greens with a fried egg on top -- best reheated lunch ever!
EmilyC October 1, 2019
Oh your comment just made my day, melissa! Thank you so much for trying this and your nice note.
riverkitchen August 5, 2017
Oh, deep, sincere apologies--actually this recipe was NOT in the cookbook I mentioned but in Food52's equally great cookbook of salads. It is truly wonderful and correctly attributed!
riverkitchen August 5, 2017
I love this recipe, have made it, but am completely confused about whose it was originally. This week I found it, almost ingredient for ingredient and word for word, in a great new cookbook, Simple, by the British writer Diane Henry. As a writer and editor myself, I wish that recipes were given more precise attribution.
Cheryl P. May 7, 2017
We used roasted Roma tomatoes (left in the freezer from last summer) instead of the red pepper in the dressing, added some grainy mustard and extra sherry vinegar. It made a delicious dressing.
EmilyC May 16, 2017
Oh nice! Thanks for sharing your tweaks!
kaleandsalt May 6, 2016
The dressing for this salad is absolutely wonderful. It came together really quickly and was a really delicious change from my vinaigrette rut - smoky, rich, and slightly sweet. I also appreciated the technique of mixing shredded carrots into the lentils, I'll definitely be doing that in the future to sneak a bit more veggies into my lentil salads. That said, I thought the combination of ingredients in this salad was just a little bit off and didn't really like it as a whole. The broccoli overpowered the other ingredients, and it all turned into a brown mush that felt very heavy for such a healthy dish. I think I might stick to my vinaigrette-based lentil salad (but keep the carrots!) and just serve the delicious, crispy broccoli on the side.
Transcendancing October 6, 2015
Wow, this is my new favourite salad! I plan to eat it all summer long (I'm in Australia and our weather is just heating up). Such gorgeous flavours and worth the effort in the dressing definitely.
EmilyC October 6, 2015
Thank you for your nice note! So glad you like the salad. This dressing is one of my favorites, so I'm glad you found it worth the effort!
Food O. May 24, 2015
Substitute for tahini? Can you recommend another type of dressing?
EmilyC May 25, 2015
I recently made the dressing with a 1/4 cup of toasted almonds that I blitzed in the food processor (in place of the tahini), and it was delicious. If you go this direction, start with a lesser amount of water and add more to get the right consistency.
Melirose February 12, 2015
I adore this recipe! Great main course. My normally meat loving 14 yo daughter can usually only be coaxed to have a vegetarian meal if its pasta or tofu, so it's great to have her eat lentils now. About to make for second time. I used prepared Tahini sauce from Trader Joes instead of pure tahini (only way I didn't have to buy a huge container). It is just Tahini, lemon, water, garlic salt, so I just adjusted quality of your sauce ingredients to taste and it worked fine. LOVE IT.
EmilyC February 12, 2015
Wonderful! So glad you and your daughter enjoyed it. Thanks for your note!
gingerroot December 29, 2014
Hi Emily! I made this for Christmas brunch and our gathering of family and friends loved it. This is going into my regular rotation. Thank you for such a fabulous recipe! Hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas holiday. Wishing you all the best in 2015!
EmilyC December 29, 2014
Thanks so much Jenny! I'm so happy that this salad made it onto your holiday table! Wishing you and yours all the best in the New Year as well! xoxo
luvcookbooks October 26, 2014
Made this for dinner tonight, and it's up there with Arielleclementine's Roasted Broccoli I have never seen broiled broccoli in a recipe before and the little broccoli cross sections were delicious and very pretty. I predict this will be a future Genius Recipe- thank you for sharing it!
EmilyC October 27, 2014
Meg -- I'm flattered that you like this so much and put it in the same category as arielleclementine's roasted broccoli, one of my all-time favorites! The broiling technique really does work well (and so much quicker than roasting). Thanks so much for trying this and circling back!
fiveandspice October 13, 2014
Congrats Em! This looks awesome.
EmilyC October 13, 2014
Thanks Emily!
Midge October 13, 2014
Congrats Emily! Cannot wait to try this.
EmilyC October 13, 2014
Thank you! Let me know if you try it! Always love to hear about variations too.
drbabs October 12, 2014
Congratulations on being a finalist!
EmilyC October 13, 2014
Thanks drbabs!
healthierkitchen October 10, 2014
this is right up my alley, Emily! Congrats!
EmilyC October 10, 2014
Thanks so much Wendy!
Kukla October 9, 2014
This salad sounds so tasty and different, Emily! Definitely trying this one! Congratulations!
EmilyC October 9, 2014
Thanks so much Kukla -- hope you try and like it!
cookinginvictoria October 9, 2014
Yay, Emily -- congrats on being selected as a finalist!! I was fortunate enough to test this recipe and we all loved it. In fact, I have made it twice since you posted it. As I told the editors, this is "an inventive, wildly delicious salad that somehow feels both original and new . . . It is one of the most delicious recipes that I have ever made from food52, and I have made quite a few!" So glad that this recipe is getting some food52 love. :)
AntoniaJames October 9, 2014
cookinginvictoria, do you have an ideas on what substitutions could be made for the peppers and paprika in the sauce? I realize that it's hard to get the smoky taste without the smoked paprika or a smoked chile or other pepper, but I cannot eat either of them . . . . ;o)
cookinginvictoria October 9, 2014
Hi AJ, that is a tough one because the smokiness is so much a part of the flavor of this dish. I am wondering if maybe a sprinkling of smoked salt on the plated salad or even adding a small amount of ground looseleaf Lapsang Souchong tea to the dressing might deliver some smokiness if one were unable to use peppers or paprika. EmilyC, what do you think?
EmilyC October 9, 2014
Thanks, cookinginvictoria, for your lovely feedback on my salad! Really means a lot coming from you. Thanks so much for taking the time to test it!
EmilyC October 9, 2014
Funny you ask about substitutions, because I debated back and forth between this dressing, with its spicy, smoky character, and a lemon tahini one. I like cookinginvictoria's suggestions for trying to replicate the smoky aspect and you could try charred roma tomato (or maybe even sun-dried tomatoes) in place of the piquillo. Or -- you could take the salad in a completely different direction with a lemony dressing. I'm thinking lemon, tahini, garlic, olive oil, and some freshly ground cumin and/or coriander would be nice. Please let us know what you try!
AntoniaJames October 9, 2014
These are great ideas. I've got some really smoky charred eggplant in my freezer that I'll blend up with a touch of toasted cumin, and substitute lemon juice for the vinegar. I'll report back, soon. (I just *happen* to have a pint of French green lentils, cooked with bay leaves and garlic, waiting in the fridge for the right opportunity, which this quite obviously is.) Stay tuned. ;o)
Bevi October 10, 2014
What a great, enticing review, CIV!