GRILLED ASPARAGUS & FRENCH LENTIL NIÇOISE SALAD

grilled asparagus and french lentil niçoise salad (vegan!) - The First Messpin it!grilled asparagus and french lentil niçoise salad (vegan!) - The First Messpin it!grilled asparagus and french lentil niçoise salad (vegan!) - The First Messpin it!grilled asparagus and french lentil niçoise salad (vegan!) - The First Messpin it!grilled asparagus and french lentil niçoise salad (vegan!) - The First Messpin it!grilled asparagus and french lentil niçoise salad (vegan!) - The First Messpin it!
When I was working on my cookbook last year (PS I’m still working on it hehe), I had this loose concept of a vegan niçoise-inspired salad that I wanted to lock down. In the mix of all the other recipes and some seriously failed attempts, I never really settled on an execution that I was happy with. When I tried to explain it to Mark for some feedback (he loves the more traditional version), he was kinda baffled, saying “…But no fish or eggs?? Then it’s just a salad.” SIGH.

But what about that fish and those eggs? I didn’t know how to approach either of the typical protein components in a plant-based makeover of the salad. Any re-imagining of the eggs was out, no question. At first, I thought about making some sort of chickpea patty flavoured with nori seaweed, lemon, and capers. I knew that this option would be tasty, but honestly? It felt a little too on-the-nose for me.

I was eating some (totally imported) asparagus with dinner one night recently and thought “Why can’t I just do that niçoise with a ton of vegetables and some French lentils for protein? They’re French!” Clearly the past failures of this salad were haunting me. I have a few personal recipe development-type projects like this that just drift in and out. They tend to show up in unexpected ways, too. I was watching BoJack Horseman and riding my exercise bike the other morning when a formula for vegan ice cream hit me way too hard. So random. Anyway, some of these recipes remain elusive, but this salad is all the way there for me now (and hopefully that ice cream will be soon).

I probably should have called this “niçoise-style/inspired” salad or something, but when it comes to the food/drink authenticity debate, I always choose what’s delicious over what’s historically/super technically accurate (which can be difficult and sometimes controversial to nail down with food anyway). This salad is in the loving spirit of niçoise and I’m quite fine with that. Mark and I shared the majority of this for dinner the other night after an unseasonably warm weekend. The colour-blocked sections on the platter made me smile, and I could definitely smother almost anything with the caper shallot dressing. The lentils lend a good bit of chewy satiation to this salad. I’ve been happily eating these ones from GRAIN for the past couple weeks. Raising my (kombucha-filled) glass to even more of those warmer days ahead :)

grilled asparagus and french lentil niçoise salad (vegan!) - The First Messpin it!grilled asparagus and french lentil niçoise salad (vegan!) - The First Messpin it!grilled asparagus and french lentil niçoise salad (vegan!) - The First Messpin it!grilled asparagus and french lentil niçoise salad (vegan!) - The First Messpin it!
GRILLED ASPARAGUS + FRENCH LENTIL NIÇOISE SALAD RECIPE
Print the recipe here!
SERVES: 3-4
NOTES: Roasting the asparagus is definitely an option if you don’t have access to a grill. There are 3 boiled components in this salad (lentils, potatoes, and green beans). I cooked each one separately, drained it, and then started on the next one. Of course if you’re on the ball and have 3 decently sized pots, you could have them all going at the same time. Also, I like to make a triple batch of the caper shallot dressing to have around for other random salads and bowls throughout the week. Just a little hot tip :)

CAPER SHALLOT DRESSING INGREDIENTS:
1 small shallot, finely minced (roughly 2 tablespoons of minced shallot)
1 tablespoon capers, minced
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
sea salt + ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

SALAD INGREDIENTS:
1/2 cup French lentils, rinsed
1/2 lb mini potatoes
1/3 pound green beans, stems removed
1 1/2 lbs asparagus, woody ends trimmed
olive oil
sea salt + ground black pepper
1/4 cup pitted black olives, cut in half
4-5 radishes, cut into wedges
1 tablespoon minced chives

Make the caper shallot dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the minced shallot, caper, dijon mustard, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Keep whisking the mixture while you slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Once the mixture is thoroughly combined, check it for seasoning and set aside.

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the lentils to the water and a fat pinch of salt. Simmer the lentils until just tender, but still quite chewy, about 20 minutes. Drain the lentils and transfer them to a medium bowl. Toss the lentils with 2 tablespoons of the caper shallot dressing. Set aside.

Place the mini potatoes in the saucepan and cover them with an inch or two of cold water. Bring the pot to a boil over medium-high heat. Simmer the potatoes, uncovered, until tender when pierced with a knife, about 15-20 minutes. Drain the potatoes. As soon as you can handle them, cut the potatoes into quarters. Transfer cut potatoes to a medium bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of the caper shallot dressing. Set aside.

Fill the saucepan with water one more time and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the green beans to the water with a pinch of salt. Simmer the green beans, uncovered, until they’re crisp-tender, about 4-5 minutes. Drain the green beans and rinse with very cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.

Heat your grill to high. Toss the asparagus in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place the asparagus on the grill. Cook until asparagus is crisp-tender and lightly charred, about 5 minutes. Remember to flip asparagus over at the halfway point.

Transfer grilled asparagus to a serving platter. In sections, top the asparagus with the lentils, potatoes, green beans, olives, and radishes. Drizzle the remaining caper shallot dressing over the salad, and garnish with the chives. Serve immediately.

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  • Katrina20/04/2016 - 6:34 am

    This is the best kind of outdoor eating food! So delicious!ReplyCancel

    • Laura21/04/2016 - 8:13 am

      Thanks Katrina! Outdoor eats are my favourite kind of eats :)
      -LReplyCancel

  • LISA20/04/2016 - 8:57 am

    Looove niçoise salad – whether it is with tuna and eggs or without. Your vegan option is looking superb, pretty vibrant. Spring vegetables are so pretty damn beautiful and aesthetic, aren’t they?
    Lots of love, LisaReplyCancel

    • Laura21/04/2016 - 8:14 am

      Thanks Lisa. And it’s true, spring veg almost have an electric hue to them I find. Such an inspiring time to cook!
      xo LReplyCancel

  • Amy | The Whole Food Rainbow20/04/2016 - 9:21 am

    Looks so delicious, and just says SUMMER IS COMING! to me in the most wonderful way! Bring it on! I’ve never used capers (I know, what have I been doing in my kitchen?) and have been thinking about them recently so thanks for the inspiration :)ReplyCancel

    • Laura21/04/2016 - 8:16 am

      We got a beautiful, summery preview these last few days weather-wise. My excitement is off the charts, too :) Capers are one of my favourite ingredients, so I hope you get to try them soon!
      -LReplyCancel

  • Abby @ Heart of a Baker20/04/2016 - 9:59 am

    Oh girl, I’ve been craving a veggie heavy version of a nicoise salad for ages! Lentils aren’t usually my thing, but in this salad they look perfect. I can’t wait to see your cookbook, it’s going to be killer!ReplyCancel

    • Laura21/04/2016 - 8:17 am

      I’m glad I’m not the only one that gets strong, kind of weird and random cravings haha. My man doesn’t really enjoy the lentils either, but totally vibed to them in this salad, so maybe there’s hope :)
      xoxo LReplyCancel

  • Ashlae20/04/2016 - 11:01 am

    Girl. You are speaking my language with this salad. Also, totally digging the fact that I can make this despite the fact that I don’t have a proper kitchen. Cheers to warmer days! And salad, OF COURSE. <3ReplyCancel

    • Laura21/04/2016 - 8:19 am

      I’m feeling for you with that kitchen situation right now. Wish I could have you guys over for epic salad and a drink or two while the construction rolls on :)
      xo LReplyCancel

  • Maya | Spice + Sprout20/04/2016 - 12:15 pm

    THIS! I am totally on the same page as you about the authenticity vs deliciousness argument. I am all on the side of experiments and adaptations! I love the picture of your bbq, so stoked for summer eats and outdoor meals <3ReplyCancel

    • Laura21/04/2016 - 8:19 am

      Thanks Maya :) Outdoor meals are my favourite thing about summer I think. After making this salad, I just want to grill everything!
      xo LReplyCancel

  • renee (will frolic for food)20/04/2016 - 2:05 pm

    i man i SO get that whole thing about having recipes hit you, working on them, putting them on the back burner and then eventually looping around when you finally GET IT. it happens a lot in my kitchen / brain. for me right now it’s a mushroom-based crab cake recipe. anyway, loving this rainbow of nicoise-ish salad gloriousness! you’ve got some dope dressing skillz, girl.ReplyCancel

    • Laura21/04/2016 - 8:22 am

      That moment when it hits you is the best, and it almost always happens when I’m the furthest away from any note-taking equipment haha. Crossing my fingers that you’ll nail that crab cake soon :D :D
      xoxo LReplyCancel

  • Sarah | Well and Full20/04/2016 - 3:26 pm

    I am all for calling this a niçoise salad, and am so glad someone finally made a beautiful vegan version!! ;) But I hear you on the historical accuracy vs. food context question… I made a vegan pho the other day that wasn’t traditionally pho-like at all and was stressing about what to call it on the blog. But it definitely was in the SPIRIT of pho, just as this salad is in the spirit of niçoise.ReplyCancel

    • Laura21/04/2016 - 8:24 am

      It’s such a weird, unspoken thing with food blogs and food media in general. I’m always weary of calling something by a traditional name when I’ve slightly re-interpreted it, but calling this “Vegan spring vegetable salad in the spirit of a niçoise” would have been the most annoying blog post title ever :P
      xo LReplyCancel

  • lindsey20/04/2016 - 6:51 pm

    while i eat eggs (and fish sparingly) i never like the nicoise. but this rendition sounds totally perfect. we’ve been grilling up our fair share of asparagus the past few days too, and this warm weather is for sure bringing out MAJ salad vibes over here. thanks for your endless inspiration, and making salads so much more compelling ;) xo!ReplyCancel

    • Laura21/04/2016 - 8:27 am

      Hope you’re enjoying so much outdoor grilling and eating with that beautiful backyard garden setup of yours, girl :)
      xo LReplyCancel

  • Sophie | The Green Life20/04/2016 - 10:32 pm

    I’ve never been a fan of Niçoise salad, but your adaptation sounds glorious! Well done. Beautiful recipe and photos, as always. <3ReplyCancel

  • Megan @ Meg is Well21/04/2016 - 9:44 am

    I’ve actually never heard of nicoise salad so I looked it up and I think your version looks better anyways. I guess that puts me on the side of innovation and “rules are made to be broken” side of things. I love everything about this salad!ReplyCancel

    • Laura23/04/2016 - 9:11 am

      Thanks so much, Megan. I’m totally into breaking the rules (when it’s a salad at stake hehe)
      -LReplyCancel

  • Allyson21/04/2016 - 12:53 pm

    This is what I look for in vegetarian/vegan adaptions of classic dishes, that it stays true to the spirit of the dish. I don’t keep meat at home, and don’t generally eat it, but I will always order a salade niçoise if there’s one to be found. I can’t wait to try this version.ReplyCancel

    • Laura23/04/2016 - 9:12 am

      Thanks Allyson! I hope you get a chance to try and enjoy this one :)
      -LReplyCancel

  • Jessie Snyder | Faring Well21/04/2016 - 1:58 pm

    I am SO glad you stuck with this salad version and brought it to us here Laura! I wan too face plant into this dish right now. And this dressing? THIS DRESSING. Happy warm sunny days girl, and lots of grilling in our futures <3ReplyCancel

    • Laura23/04/2016 - 9:14 am

      Hehe I’m glad I didn’t give up on this salad either. Grilling season is upon us yesssssss!
      xoxoReplyCancel

  • Alison @ Alison's Allspice21/04/2016 - 4:41 pm

    I love that you suggest making extra dressing to use throughout the week, a great tip to keep things simple. Grilled asparagus is a favorite of mine, I can’t wait to try this. Pinned!ReplyCancel

    • Laura23/04/2016 - 9:15 am

      I’m all about keeping things easy and streamlined throughout the week. trying to incorporate more recipes and strategies like this on the blog, so totally appreciate your feedback, Alison!
      -LReplyCancel

  • Jessica22/04/2016 - 8:16 am

    I can’t wait to try this– I love grilled asparagus.
    My niece is a new and very fussy vegetarian. Protein sources are problematic but she like lentils so, I think this will become a staple in her diet! Thanks!!ReplyCancel

    • Laura23/04/2016 - 9:20 am

      I was once a new and fussy vegetarian that actually hated lentils hehe. Hope you get a chance to try this recipe, Jessica :)
      -LReplyCancel

  • danielle // rooting the sun23/04/2016 - 9:54 am

    if the inspiration is there, and the spirit is there, then the embodiment is there and for all intents and purposes this is a damn fine niçoise laura! i love the combination of lentil, asparagus, and olive. you have a beautiful brain, happy spring weather. xoReplyCancel

  • Jennifer23/04/2016 - 4:52 pm

    I made this today and it was delicious! I did put boiled eggs in it (sorry) but the best parts were actually the lentils and the grilled asparagus! Both me and my husband had second helpings, so thank you!. :)ReplyCancel

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  • Heather25/04/2016 - 1:30 pm

    Thanks for this!! Made it last night–it’s so great and totally works. Also just a beautiful plate and spring veg inspiration.ReplyCancel

  • Kim25/04/2016 - 5:13 pm

    Made this last night and it was delicious, thank you! I added some extra lentils and potatoes since it was our main (ok, only) dinner dish. The beans add to the Nicoise feeling, but I feel they could easily be left out to simplify.ReplyCancel

  • Derek @ HealthierDay26/04/2016 - 7:58 am

    That looks great and very healthy! We will give this one a try.ReplyCancel

  • […] vegan grilled asparagus and French lentil Nicoise features a ton of spring vegetables, tender baby potatoes, and protein packed legumes. It looks […]ReplyCancel

  • Mary06/05/2016 - 7:59 pm

    Unsubscribe meReplyCancel

    • Laura06/05/2016 - 9:34 pm

      Mary,
      I searched your email address in my subscriber list and nothing came up. If you subscribe by email, you should be able to find an unsubscribe button at the bottom of any post you receive in your inbox. If you subscribe via RSS feed, there should be an unsubscribe feature with whatever reader you use.
      -LReplyCancel

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  • Emily03/10/2016 - 6:41 am

    I made a version of this for dinner last night and my husband and I really enjoyed it! Simple, fresh flavors, quick and easy to put together. <3 I made the following changes and am putting them here in case another reader finds themselves in a similar situation: The asparagus at my grocery store didn't look great (I also realize you wrote this in Spring and I'm posting in Fall) so I increased the amount of green beans. I don't have a grill so I roasted the green beans in the oven on 400F (same time I put the potatoes in the pot to boil) with some smoked salt and black pepper, then sprinkled in some fresh lemon juice after they were done. Also I was unknowingly out of white wine vinegar so in the dressing recipe I substituted half apple cider vinegar and half sherry vinegar (1 tbsp each). It was good but I think would have been best with the white wine vinegar as you'd written it. Served sans radishes and with Calvestrano olives. Thanks for the great recipe and inspiration!ReplyCancel

  • Darcey23/12/2016 - 3:07 am

    I made this for friends tonight. We all loved it! And they are meatatarians!
    Such a lovely, delightful, flavourful dish. I made extras, and am looking forwards to leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • […] Get the recipe here: The First Mess […]ReplyCancel

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