lentil, squash and mushroom salad on platter with serving spoon

It’s time for a word association.

First word: January.

Second word: Salad.

How many of you thought ‘diet’ or ‘detox’ when you thought of January? And, did it change the way you feel about the word, ‘salad’?

Our eating habits are so deeply, emotionally entrenched in our minds that we can form pretty strong attachments and aversions to food. As such, you probably aren’t surprised at all that I am posting a salad in January. Or, for those of you who have given up on the January deprivation mindset, you might be feeling averse to the idea of salads right now.

It has taken me many years, but I have finally – fully – abandoned the overindulgence/deprivation cycle so common in last and first months of the year. Yes, I splurged in December…but it wasn’t an all-out cheese fest for 31 days. In January, I am both delighted for the feast season to be over but also not resigning myself to eat only spartan meals this month.

So, why a salad? Because I really freaking like salad. And this is a winter salad: hearty, richly flavoured and super satisfying even on the coldest of days. You can serve it warm, at room temperature or cold. So go ahead – eat salad. Enjoy every minute of it.

It’s about treating yourself well…not ‘paying’ for December indulgence.

lentil, squash and mushroom salad on platter with serving spoon

Roasted Shiitake and French Lentil Salad

Roasted? That's all I need!
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Ingredients

  • 1 cup dry French lentils, soaked four hours, rinsed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 pound shiitake and cremini (brown button) mushrooms,, cleaned and halved
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme or 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups frozen pre-chopped butternut squash
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • dash chili flakes
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 2 large handfuls pre-washed arugula or baby kale, (optional, but delicious!)

Dressing

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon
  • 2 cloves roasted garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin

Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • In a medium pot, bring French lentils to a boil with bay leaves until cooked but al dente about 15 - 20 minutes. Rinse, drain and season with salt and pepper.
  • Spread mushrooms and onions on a rimmed cookie sheet, toss with extra virgin olive oil and thyme. Roast for 12-15, until mushrooms gain colour but before they start to wilt too much. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Using a pot fitted with a steamer basket, steam butternut squash until warm and toss in maple, chili flakes, salt and pepper. (No steamer basket? Bring 1 inch of water to a boil and then toss in squash for just a minute or two)
  • Meanwhile, whisk up dressing ingredients in a small bowl.
  • In a large bowl, gently toss mushrooms, lentils and squash with dressing and sunflower seeds and season to taste.

Notes

No roasted garlic on hand? Two options! Slice the top 1/4 off a head of garlic. Place on a sheet of aluminum foil, drizzle with oil, salt and pepper. Twist up foil and pop in the oven as soon as you turn it on. Or, leave the cloves in the skin and roast up with the mushrooms and onions...then just pop (carefully!) cloves out of the skin.

Photo Credit: Melissa Quantz