This tangy vegan pickled vegetable + beluga lentil salad makes the perfect summer side. Julienned cucumbers, carrots, red bell pepper, red onion, and pepperoncini are marinated in a zippy red wine vinaigrette until they begin to soften and gently pickle. Then, they're tossed with hearty beluga lentils for the ultimate plant-based protein boost. This salad is hearty enough to stand alone as a fresh summer lunch yet light enough to pair with a flavorful veggie burger as a stand-out side dish.
Prior to this whole pregnancy thing, I had my doubts about whether or not pregnancy cravings were real. And as the first trimester nausea gripped my stomach, I had a hard time believing I'd ever crave anything besides fruit again.
Not too far into the second trimester, the cravings began to crop up.
First, it was gummy candy and fruit snacks.
Next, it was chopped veggie salads the size of my head.
Then, it was pickles and olives, pickles and olives, pickles and olives.
Did I mention pickles and olives? Oh yes, believe I did.
At the very first inkling of the pickle craving, I declared myself a basic pregnant lady to Dan. I mean, is there any pregnancy craving more stereotypical than pickles?
I've always been a pickle lover though, so I suppose a ramped up hankering for the tangy, salty, briny, crunchy little guys was merely an inevitability.
That said, honest opinion: If a pregnant friend of a friend of a friend perhaps devoured an entire jar of dill pickle spears in one sitting, would you say she has a problem? Again, only asking for a friend of a friend of a friend. No direct relation to me... ;)
Glad we cleared that up. Now, onward and
upward downward to the recipe.
This pickled vegetable + beluga lentil salad is most certainly a pregnant lady's dream but its crave-worthiness truly has no bounds.
It's fresh, crunchy, tangy, vinegary, briny, and just the right amount of salty. It's also nourishing with oodles of feel-good micronutrients and plant-powered protein to boot.
To make it, you'll cook up a whole bunch of beluga lentils (aka black lentils). Unlike other varieties of lentils (e.g., red lentils, green lentils, etc.) that cook up soft and mushy, beluga lentils cook up firm-tender or al dente which makes them perfect for salads.
While the lentils cook, you'll get to work on the pickled vegetables.
To a large mixing bowl, add julienned carrots, cucumber, red bell pepper, red onion, and pepperoncini. It will seem like a boatload of veggies (because it is), but they'll shrink down quite a bit as they pickle so don't you fret.
Then, whip up a quick red wine vinaigrette by whisking together red wine vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, pure maple syrup, dijon, dried basil + oregano, sea salt, and black pepper.
Pour the vinaigrette over the julienned veggies and toss to coat.
Allow the veggies to marinate in the vinaigrette for at least 15 minutes, tossing every few minutes or so, to soften and gently pickle.
Once the lentils are cooked and have had a chance to cool a bit, toss them with the pickled veggies.
Then, taste and season with more sea salt and black pepper if desired.
Serve this tangy pickled veggie salad warm or chilled. It keeps well in the fridge for up to two days and makes an excellent light summer lunch or hearty side dish.
Pickled Vegetable + Beluga Lentil Salad
- 1 ½ cups dried beluga lentils or black lentils, picked through and rinsed
- 4 cups water
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and julienned
- 1 large cucumber, cored and julienned
- 1 small red onion, julienned
- 1 red bell pepper, cored and julienned
- 2 generous handfuls pepperoncini, stemmed and very thinly sliced
- ½ cup red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup cold-pressed olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more for seasoning the salad
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Combine the rinsed lentils and water in a medium saucepan. Bring the water to a rapid boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low to gently simmer. Continue to cook the lentils, uncovered, for 20 minutes, or until firm-tender. (Note: older lentils take longer to cook.) Strain the lentils and set aside.
- Meanwhile, get to work on the vegetables. Add the veggies (i.e., carrots, cucumber, red onion, bell pepper, and pepperoncini) to a large nonreactive (i.e., non-metallic) serving bowl.
- In a small mixing bowl, vigorously whisk together the red wine vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, maple syrup, dijon, basil, oregano, sea salt, and black pepper. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and toss to coat. Let the vegetables marinate in the dressing for at least 15 minutes, tossing every few minutes to soften and gently pickle.
- Once the lentils have cooled slightly, add them to the pickled vegetables and toss to coat. If needed, add more sea salt and black pepper, to taste.
- Serve warm or chilled.
- This salad keeps well in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. If the flavors mellow after refrigerating, brighten them up by adding more red wine vinegar or lemon juice, to taste.