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GROWING A BOWL OF LETTUCE: LENTIL SALAD WITH SPRING GREENS, ASPARAGUS, AND AN EGG

Lentil Salad with Spring Greens, Asparagus, and a Soft Egg | the year in food

Every year, without fail, March inspires me to garden. It caught me off guard a few weeks ago, that desire. Because this year, my summer feels so up in the air. I am ready to move, out of the city, but where to, exactly, remains a little uncertain. So I made a deal with myself: no gardening this year. No more acquisition of pots, or plants, or things. It’s time to pare down, to minimize.

Lentil Salad with Spring Greens, Asparagus, and a Soft Egg | the year in food

But there is nothing that satisfies me more than gardening in the spring. It has something to do with the long evenings, the fact that I can sneak onto my deck at 6:30 and get my fingers dirty, watch the brightness of the evening sky linger a little longer than a couple months back, and just be right there. I haven’t been so good at being right there lately, and gardening effortlessly reminds me how to do that.

Lentil Salad with Spring Greens, Asparagus, and a Soft Egg | the year in food

And it is so visceral: there is the good, clean smell of the dirt, the coolness of it and the evening air, the tang and grassy notes of a stolen lettuce leaf that I chomp, the deeply soothing powers of green things. (Science has recently confirmed what anyone who gardens or hikes has intuitively known: green is the most healing.)

Lentil Salad with Spring Greens, Asparagus, and a Soft Egg | the year in food

Gardening, too, is a way to mark the time. I remember my first spring on this deck, when I hauled bag after bag of heavy potting soil up four flights of stairs, but refused help from anyone because I loved the delicious physical exhaustion that came with the work, when I spent hundreds of dollars on plants and soil amendments and pots because I was so excited to have a little sanctuary of green with such a remarkable view in my city, when I sat on the deck after hours of bending over and pulling weeds, reading a biography of Alice Waters and admiring her wild life in the 70s, watching the fog roll in and drinking red wine. I loved the weird friction of the warm sun and cold fog overtaking the sky: San Francisco’s surest harbinger of summer. I grew flowers and herbs and salad greens and brassicas, I experimented. I am still not an expert gardener but I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t, at least in this little square plot with its little microclimate.

Lentil Salad with Spring Greens, Asparagus, and a Soft Egg | the year in food

It is my favorite ritual this time of year, and it’s all the more sharp and acute because I’m pretty certain it’s my last year to perform this ritual here. Why preemptively give up the joy and the delight and the struggle and the smell and when I’m not done with this little deck, four stories up, in a rapidly changing city? So I’ll garden here one more spring, because it anchors me, and calms me, and because there is nothing so delightful as a bowl full of fresh lettuce leaves that you have grown yourself.

Lentil Salad with Spring Greens, Asparagus, and a Soft Egg | the year in food

Lentil Salad with Spring Greens, Asparagus, and a Soft Egg
Yield: 2 servings
Lentils adapted from Bon Appetit

When I cook for this space, I often make an effort to create something dynamic and unique. Lately, I have been so busy that I fall back on the familiar, and the familiar feels good. Usually for a weeknight salad, I don’t even make a dressing, I just throw some oil and vinegar on everything and toss. Aside from the charred lemon, this is a pretty straightforward bowl of food. That, and it might help to prepare the lentils ahead of time. Then it all comes together marvelously. I find that spring foods can feel and taste kind of cooling, which is why I sautéed the radishes in butter; it warms them and softens their bite, and they are a new thing entirely. It’s my favorite thing to do with radishes. Use up your old veggies in the water that the lentils cook in; those tired carrots and wilted celery are redeemed this way.

For the lentils:
1 cup green or puy lentils, rinsed
Optional aromatics: 1 carrot, roughly chopped; 1 celery stalk, roughly chopped; thyme or parsley leaves; 1 bay leaf; 1 dried chili or chile flakes

For the salad:
2 or 4 eggs (depending on how many you’d like on your salad)
2 Tablespoons butter, ghee, or coconut oil
1/2 pound asparagus, sliced on the diagonal
1 bunch Easter egg radishes, rinsed and halved lengthwise
1 lemon, halved
8 cups mixed spring greens
Small handful of fresh parsley, chopped
Small handful of fresh chives, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Flaky sea salt
Freshly cracked black pepper

In a large pot, add the lentils and aromatics, and cover by about two inches with water. Bring to a boil, covered, and reduce heat to low, simmering until lentils are soft and cooked through, about 45-60 minutes. Set aside to cool in their liquid.

For the eggs, bring a small pot of water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, add the eggs and set a timer for 7 minutes. (A little longer for a firmer yolk.) Remove the eggs and plunge into an ice bath to cool. Peel and set aside.

In the meanwhile, heat a large grill pan or sauté pan over medium heat. Add the butter, and let it melt and get frothy. Add the asparagus, radish, and lemon halves and sauté without disturbing to brown them a little. Toss and stir as needed to evenly cook.

To make the salad, combine 2 cups of cooked, drained lentils with the salad greens and fresh herbs. Add a generous glug of olive oil and vinegar and toss. Top each salad with half of the radishes and asparagus, and one half of each lemon. Finish with a generous sprinkle of flaky sea salt, freshly cracked pepper, and a squeeze of the lemon.

Lentil Salad with Spring Greens, Asparagus, and a Soft Egg | the year in food

  • Therese - this looks so fresh and amazing :) truly inspiring!ReplyCancel

  • Kathryn - This is my first year of gardening and I can absolutely relate to everything you’ve said here (apart from the fact that I’m 99% sure that I’ve managed to kill my salad leaves…). There’s something in that greenness which is so grounding. Good luck with whatever is on the horizon for you this summer. I look forward to seeing where the wind takes you.ReplyCancel

  • Teeny Red Cabin - I don’t think this bowl of goodies could look any more beautiful.ReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth - It’s funny how gardens can bring so much to the surface. They’re all about place, embracing and investing in where we are, and when things are up in the air, it’s hard to feel grounded (sorry, I usually avoid puns.) It’s so nice that you decided to get something going in your garden, even with change in the air. Here’s hoping you land somewhere great in the months ahead, and in the meantime, may every salad be as bountiful as this beauty.ReplyCancel

  • Yin and Yolk - I am incredibly jealous of your garden. I live in the city and every year I tell myself that this is the year to sign up for a community garden space so I can experience what you’re describing. The salad looks amazing and so enticing.ReplyCancel

  • dishing up the dirt - Love this salad and love this post. Cheers to the dirt and all the beautiful things that grow in it.ReplyCancel

  • kristie {birch and wild} - Everything you feel about gardening, I feel too. I love to sit in my garden in the evening with some tea, until the sun slips behind the trees.
    This is a beautiful salad with an incredible array of flavors. I have roasted radishes, but I have never cooked them in butter. That sounds so good.ReplyCancel

  • Angela Brown - Such a beautiful post, Kimberley! I feel the same way about my tiny little apartment-sized garden. It really soothes me and roots me and nourishes me in such unexpected ways! I agree that one of my most favorite things about the summer is walking outside just before dusk, digging my hands into the dirt, and then sitting barefoot, drinking a glass of wine and watching the sun set with a good book or magazine in hand! Such perfection, really! I just wrote a post over on my site about how I’m currently cleaning out my freezer of the many herbs I froze last season to prepare for my spring garden too! Best of luck with your move and with your new plantings :)ReplyCancel

  • Jordan - Such beautiful pics! I am all for using lentils in food, they’re one of my favorites and easy to get a hold of. I unfortunately only have room to grow herbs in my garden, no big veggies, so I’m a little jealous of the great things you’ve got!ReplyCancel

  • Rachel (Tasty Thailand) - Wow, this not only looks like it’s going to taste amazing but it’s also incredibly beautiful. Can’t wait to try this. And I love lentils – just never think of serving them with a salad :)ReplyCancel

  • Kelly Waters - Oh, Babe I hear you in so many ways. Do you think we could have a dinner at my place not this, but next Saturday night? I think that’s the 18th?ReplyCancel

  • Ian - This looks like such a nice balance of textures, colors and flavors. Will have to try this to see how they come together. Thanks for sharing!ReplyCancel

  • VeggieTown - It looks beautiful, tasty and simple. Just the way I like it! I would love a bowl of that.ReplyCancel

  • Shamit Khemka - Its really amazing to see an recipe which really touch my heart and which is salad recipe .
    Appreciate for your efforts .ReplyCancel

  • Suzanne - This looks delicious. There is nothing like connecting with food…you can taste everything…including that good soil you hauled up the stairs!

    We need to tell more stories to connect people with real food. Farm to Table Adventures will hit the road to explore what we eat…one farm, one ingredient at a time. It will be quite an adventure. I hope you will take a peek and spread the word if you enjoy our tasty tale. http://f2ta.comReplyCancel

  • Clementine Buttercup - I love puy lentil salads.The flavour is earthy and rich and it holds so much flavour.ReplyCancel

  • Jane - Love your photos! But your recipe is better. I love blogs with nice photos and great recipes. your lentil salad looks great. I’m gonna try to make one for myself, i’m eating more healthy and organic food and try to avoid fastfood and processed food.ReplyCancel

  • shamit khemka - Thanks for the inspiration and motivation! Very well written. I will share this.!!ReplyCancel

  • Edify - Hi,Im Edify and Im a chinese.I have read your article in my country’s Internet.Its shock me a lot.And I like your attitude about life.Keep going.ReplyCancel

  • shamit khemka - This is a great recipe. SOOOOO delicious.
    Thank you so much for sharing it! Simple and fresh tasting.ReplyCancel

  • Dorcas Nduati - Gardening in spring is a joy. They are long evenings. Wow nice article.ReplyCancel

  • Ronoh Robert - Looking nice and appealing. no giving up.ReplyCancel

  • Esther - Wao…this looks beautiful and delicious. Thank you for sharing…ReplyCancel

  • Paige - What a beautiful post. There’s nothing better than eating foods you’ve grown yourself. I love that this recipe is easy, healthy and delicious. What a great summer dish. Thank you for sharing your recipe!ReplyCancel

  • paul - I agree with Paige. There’s nothing better than eating foods you’ve grown yourself. Thank you for sharing!ReplyCancel

  • ps - This has just made me salivate. In fact i will try this.
    Thank you.ReplyCancel

  • Mikes Kocholla - I like kitchen garden and home grown vegetables i have been looking forward to have a garden though staying in town to have such an amazing experience.ReplyCancel

  • Sarah - I love homegrown vegetables. Thanks for the recipe. Keep upReplyCancel

  • brainfeed.me - wow! i love the way you presented this gorgeous salad. all flavors seem to be working perfectly together! being very interested in brain food, i can say this dish is the perfect one to boost one’s brain. asparagus, radish, lentils, eggs, parsley… just the perfect braingredients! can’t wait to try this recipe! thank you.ReplyCancel

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