This salad is a party of sweet, earthy and salty flavors. Store-bought, vacuum-packed beets are called for here, which are not only convenient, but have a mellow fruitiness and a tender texture that is ideal in salads. (If you have fresh beets, and have the time to roast them, you can use those instead.) Beets naturally pair well with sharp and tangy ingredients, and while goat cheese may be a more common accompaniment, crumbly aged Cheddar offsets the sweetness of the beets and the apple cider dressing (though any sharp Cheddar works). French green lentils offer a nutty, peppery, almost mineral-like flavor and are perfect for salads because they hold their shape well, though if you only have brown lentils, that’s just fine. (They cook slightly faster, so adjust the cook time accordingly.) Finally, there’s no shame in opting for canned lentils.
Preparation of Beet and Lentil Salad With Cheddar
Step 1. Prepare the salad: In a medium pot, add the lentils, garlic and 4 cups water. Season with salt and bring to a boil over high. Reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes until just tender. (The lentils should still have some bite). Drain in a colander and stir to break up and evenly distribute the garlic. Let the lentils cool slightly.
Step 2. While the lentils cook, prepare the vinaigrette: In a large serving bowl, whisk the garlic, vinegar, oil, maple syrup and mustard with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.
Step 3. Add the warm lentils to the serving bowl, then add the arugula, herbs and beets. Season with salt and black pepper and toss. Add the Cheddar and toss gently, but don’t overdo it because you don’t want the cheese to turn crimson from the beets. To serve, top with hazelnuts.