It’s so easy to make a big, fresh salad in summer and call it dinner. I’ll slice up a tomato and a couple cukes and I’m good to go.
Then winter happens and my thoughts turn from fresh and crisp toward melty, gooey, roasted, toasted, tender, warm, and comforting. What happened to my salads? What happened to my waistline?
Enter, a winter riff on the Panzanella salad: black lentil, sweet potato, and bread salad. It’s a perfect solution. It is full of healthy things- legumes, whole grain bread, frisee, and vitamin-packed sweet potatoes. Totally nutritious and satisfying but with the same comfort factor as Thanksgiving stuffing.
What do we need? Good, hearty bread. Sweet potatoes, black lentils, frizzy frisee.
Cube the sweet potatoes and get them in the oven, then I’ll show you my favorite way to make lentils.
I’m partial to the Beluga lentils. They’re tiny and black and too cute not to like. Plus they cook up in twenty-some minutes, no soaking required. To make the lentils extra tasty, I simmered them with a clove-studded onion, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, and a little chunk of Pancetta. Even if you have no desire to make this bread salad, I insist you cook yourself up a nice bowl of lentils made in this fashion.
Bread, torn and toasted, gets mixed with the roasted sweet potatoes, and cooked lentils. We’ll throw in a few handfuls of frisee for freshness and playful texture. Nuts, seeds? Why not? Dress it up with a drop of oil and a drizzle of vinegar.
And there we go. A salad that comforts and satisfies. Winter food we can feel good about.
- 3 medium Sweet Potatoes (or Yams), peeled and cut into ¾ in cubes
- 4 c. Bread, torn into bite sized pieces
- 1 c. Black Lentils (also known as Beluga Lentils), rinsed
- 2 small chunks Pancetta (optional)
- 1 medium Onion
- 1 Cinnamon Stick
- 6 Cloves
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 4 c. Frisee
- Nuts or Seeds (almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, or sunflower seeds would all be nice), optional
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Red Wine Vinegar
- Salt & Pepper
- Preheat oven to 400°. Toss cubed sweet potatoes with olive oil to lightly coat and season with salt. Roast until tender and slightly caramelized, stirring once or twice to prevent sticking, about 30 minutes.
- To cook the lentils, heat a teaspoon or so of olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add Pancetta, if desired, and sauté until golden and crisp around the edges. Cut the onion in half and stud with cloves. Sauté the onion until it begins to brown. Add the lentils, 1½ cups of water, cinnamon stick, and bay leaves and simmer until tender, 20-25 minutes. Remove onion halves, cinnamon, bay leaves, and Pancetta. Drain excess water if necessary and season with salt and pepper.
- During the final 15 minutes that the potatoes are roasting, place torn bread on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden and crisp around the edges.
- Combine roasted sweet potatoes, cooked lentils, and toasted bread in a large salad bowl, along with frisee. Toss with olive oil and vinegar, starting with 1½ tablespoons of each, adding more if needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle in nuts, if desired.