So many nice things on one plate. Much of it packed into the dressing, so let's start there. Puree an orange, some walnuts, and a good spoonful of Dijon mustard to get everything moving in the right direction.
The body of the salad isn't much more complicated. Sit a steamer basket atop the pot you use to cook your lentils to gently tenderize the green bits while the lentils simmer away. Turn to the convenience of canned kidney beans to add contrasting color and texture. By the time the lentils are drained, you're ready to assemble.
This eats best after chilling for several hours, so naturally, it's a fabulous cold lunch salad. But it's not too shabby warm, when searing or grilling some slices of prepared polenta for a garnish adds a seriously satisfying finishing touch that makes this feel complete enough for dinner. Not to mention it makes the whole thing awfully pretty.
Versatile Lentil, Green Bean, and Kidney Bean Salad with Orange-Walnut-Dijon Dressing
1 cup dried brown lentils
4 cups water
1 dried bay leaf
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp fine sea or kosher salt, divided
6 oz green beans, fresh or frozen
1 cup cooked kidney beans, drained
1/4 cup raw, unsalted walnut halves
1 TBSP Dijon-style mustard
1 tube prepared polenta, optional
In a medium pot that fits a steamer basket, combine lentils, water, bay leaf, thyme, garlic powder, and 1/4 tsp salt. Insert steamer basket, cover pot with lid, and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium, add green beans to steamer basket, and cover. Cook until beans turn bright green, just a few minutes.
When beans are ready, remove steamer basket, and cover lentil pot with the lid again. Shock beans in an ice bath and pat dry with a clean towel. Set aside to let dry further. Reduce heat on the lentils to medium-low and continue to simmer, covered, until tender (requires a total of 25-35 minutes). While the lentils cook, rinse kidney beans in a fine sieve and set aside to let drain thoroughly.
To make the dressing, use a paring knife to remove peel and pith from the orange. Discard. Working over a bowl to catch the juices, slice alongside membranes to release segments. When done extracting segments, gently squeeze the remaining membrane to extract any juice from the pulp that clings to it before discarding the membrane. Puree orange segments and juice with walnuts, remaining 1/4 tsp salt, and mustard.
When lentils are done, drain well. Let cool a few minutes. Toss lentils, green beans, and kidney beans with dressing. Chill until ready to serve. Alternately, if serving warm for dinner, grill or pan-sear half-moons of polenta until a crust forms on the outside and the slices are creamy on the inside. Divide the salad among plates, then top each serving with seared polenta.