Make Ahead

Deborah Madison's Lentil Salad with Mint, Roasted Peppers & Feta Cheese

September 30, 2015
5 Ratings
Photo by Mark Weinberg
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 25 minutes
  • Serves 4 to 6
Author Notes

By chopping your vegetables up finely before throwing them into the pot, they cook just as quickly as the lentils do (about 20 minutes), without turning to mush. This means they also get to stay put to become part of the salad. "This is a salad I used to serve at Greens," the pioneering farm-driven restaurant where Madison was the founding chef, "... with some trepidation because at that time vegetarian food was still seen as lentils, lettuce, and stodginess," Madison wrote to me.

"I wanted a salad that was brighter somehow, and this was it. It seemed to work because this comment came back from the dining room to the kitchen: 'You’ve done for lentils what Kennedy did for the presidency!'" Adapted slightly from The Greens Cookbook (Bantam Books, 1987). —Genius Recipes

What You'll Need
  • Lentil Salad Assembly
  • 1 1/2 cups small French lentils (Puy or beluga)
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and diced into 1/8-inch squares
  • 1/2 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 medium red bell peppers
  • Lemon Vinaigrette (see below)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped mint
  • 3 tablespoons chopped mixed herbs: parsley, marjoram or cilantro, thyme
  • Pepper
  • Sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar to taste
  • 8 ounces feta cheese
  • Olive oil, for garnish
  • Lemon Vinaigrette
  • 1 large lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 to 8 tablespoons olive oil
  1. Lentil Salad Assembly
  2. Rinse the lentils, cover them generously with water, and bring them to a boil with the carrot, onion, bay leaf, garlic, and salt. Simmer them until they are cooked, about 20 to 25 minutes. They should be tender, just a little firm, and still hold their shape. Drain the lentils and save the liquid for soup stock.
  3. While the lentils are cooking, roast the peppers over a flame until they are evenly charred, and put them in a covered bowl to steam for 10 minutes or so; then scrape off the charred skins with a knife. Do not rinse them under water or the flavorful juices will be lost. Slit them open, remove the veins and seeds, and cut them into squares.
  4. Prepare the vinaigrette and fold it into the warm lentils. Add the mint, herbs, and most of the peppers. Taste, and season with freshly ground black pepper and additional salt, if needed. Taste again just before serving and add a little more vinegar to brighten the flavors. Crumble the feta and gently stir it into the lentils.
  5. Garnish with the remaining peppers and drizzle some olive oil over the surface. A Rhone wine would nicely complement this salad. Either a zinfandel or a chardonnay would also be good.
  1. Lemon Vinaigrette
  2. Remove two wide strips of peel from the lemon with a vegetable peeler, and slice them into narrow slivers (alternately, grate finely with a Microplane). Put 3 tablespoons of the lemon juice in a bowl with the lemon peel, paprika, cayenne, garlic, and salt. Whisk in 6 tablespoons of the olive oil and taste. Adjust for tartness, adding more lemon juice or oil, whichever is needed.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Nantucket Cook
    Nantucket Cook
  • bookdwarf
  • Hector Lahera
    Hector Lahera
  • FoodFanaticToo
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

16 Reviews

Nantucket C. October 31, 2015
How about subbing roasted butternut squash for the red peppers? Would it still work with the lemon?
whiskito October 20, 2015
In my kitchen, tiny diced carrots would be considered overcooked after the 20+ minutes that it takes lentils to cook. I prefer Dorie Greenspan's method of cooking the veggies in big chunks, then fishing them out and dicing when everything is cooked and stirring them back in. She suggests sticking a clove or two in the whole onion, which pairs perfectly with meaty French lentils.
ghainskom October 15, 2015
A fairly simple yet very nice salad, healthy and filling...
bookdwarf October 5, 2015
I made this last night for a gluten-free vegetarian birthday dinner for a friend. It was extremely popular! Lots of comments on how flavorful it was. I used local cherry tomatoes instead of the red pepper. Will definitely make this again.
Hector L. October 5, 2015
Helen, I haven't tried freezing and defrosting the tofu to help dehydrate it. I will, though. If you fear too much brine will soak in, taste it to adjust the soaking time.
I'd say, soak it in plain water; osmosys will will balance it out.
kns March 27, 2022
If you freeze tofu, the texture changes to chewy, grainy, rubbery, personally don't care for. It looses the smooth meltiness that I would associate with feta, definitely use a kitchen towel and weight or a tofu press to dehydrate.
Hector L. October 4, 2015
Linda is right. And tofu is a good delivery system. Cut firm tofu in 3/4" slabs. Wrap them in a towel. Set a weight atop them for 2 hrs to drain. Now you have a "sponge". Cut the tofu into cubes. Soak these in a solution flavored as Linda suggests; olive's brine is a start to "feta".
Sena October 4, 2015
Thank you
Helen M. October 5, 2015
This is a great idea! Have you done it with tofu that has been frozen so that it gets more spongy? Or do you think it would become TOO brine-y?
linda October 4, 2015
general suggestion for ingredient substitutions....
think about what role an ingredient plays in the dish: sweet, crunchy, starchy, rich, binder, leavener, etc and make your substitution accordingly. for this recipe, i might use preserved lemon or olives get some of the briny character that you'd have if you included the feta. happy cooking!
Sena October 4, 2015
Thank you, Linda.
Hector L. October 4, 2015
There has to be a universal vegan substitute list. And it should be printed in the back of every Vegan Learner's Permit.
Sena October 4, 2015
It sounds delicious, but I need a vegan substitute for the feta cheese. Any ideas?
FoodFanaticToo October 4, 2015
Sena October 4, 2015
Thank you. I found several through a google search after seeing this recipe initially. I just wondered if someone from this community had a favorite; I'm sorry I didn't make that clear.
FoodFanaticToo October 4, 2015
Hey, no problem! I hope you find something delicious ☺️