Warm Lentils with Sausage, Kale & Mustard Vinaigrette

I enjoy this salad on the warm side of room temperature -- shortly after the lentils are cooked. It’s especially good with rustic garlic croutons (see p. 191) scattered around the plate. You can use any type of precooked sausage. I’m a big fan of bockwurst, but a spicy kielbasa is delicious, too.

Salad for Dinner by Tasha DeSerio, Taunton Press, 2012.

Warm Lentils with Sausage, Kale & Mustard Vinaigrette

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    Ingredients

    1 1/2 cups green lentils 3/4 pound kale, preferably Lacinato (also called dinosaur kale), stems removed and cut into about 1-inch pieces
    1 bay leaf 1 medium onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
    Kosher salt Crushed red pepper flakes
    2 cloves garlic, pounded to a smooth paste with a pinch of salt 3/4 pound good-quality precooked sausage, such as bratwurst or bockwurst, cut at a slight angle crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices
    3 1/2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar, more as needed 1/2 cup croutons
    2 tablespoons Dijon mustard 1 large handful arugula, preferably wild arugula, or baby mustard greens, about 11/4 ounces, for garnish (optional)
    3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

    directions

    Total:
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    • 1

      Put the lentils and bay leaf in a medium pot and cover with water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil and season with a generous pinch of salt. Reduce the heat and simmer gently until the lentils are tender but not mushy (you want them to retain their shape), 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the age of the lentils. If the lentils start to peek through the cooking liquid, add a splash more water. When done, pour the lentils and their cooking liquid into a large, shallow container. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Set aside at room temperature and let the lentils cool slowly in their liquid. You can refrigerate the lentils for up to 2 days at this point; return them to room temperature before serving.

    • 2

      To make the vinaigrette, combine the garlic, vinegar, and mustard in a small bowl with a pinch of salt. Let sit for 5 to10 minutes. Whisk in 1⁄2 cup plus 2 tablespoons oil. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Set aside.

    • 3

      Remove the bay leaf from the lentils. Drain the lentils well and put them in a large work bowl. Add about two-thirds of the vinaigrette and gently fold to combine. Taste and add more salt or vinegar if necessary. Set aside for the moment.

    • 4

      Wash and drain the kale, but leave a good amount of water clinging to the leaves. Warm a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil, swirl to coat the pan, and then add the onion and a pinch of red pepper flakes and season with salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender and lightly caramelized, about 7 minutes. Add the kale in large handfuls and increase the heat to high. Using tongs, gently lift and fold the kale into the onion. When the kale has wilted, season it with salt, reduce the heat to medium, and cover the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the kale is tender. The residual water from washing should be enough to cook the kale, but if the pan gets dry and begins to scorch, add a splash more water. The cooking time will vary depending on the maturity of the kale; tender kale will cook in about 3 minutes, while mature leaves can take up to 15 minutes. When the kale is done (be sure to cook off any excess water), add it to the lentils and gently fold to combine. Taste once more and add salt or vinegar if necessary.

    • 5

      Rinse the sauté pan and wipe dry. Return the pan to the stovetop over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and put the sausage in the pan in an even layer. Quickly brown the sausage on both sides. Spoon the lentils onto a platter or individual plates and evenly distribute the sausage. Dot the croutons and scatter the arugula around the plate, if using. Drizzle the remaining vinaigrette on top and serve immediately.

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