Spring Vegetable Lentil Bowls – a light yet substantial gluten-free and easily vegan meal bowl featuring beluga lentils, spring asparagus, pan-fried halloumi cheese, avocado, pea shoots, and seeds. All of the components can be prepared in advance for a quick and easy meal.
Spring produce is starting to appear in my corner of the world.
Finally, we’ve had our first decently nice week of the year. I’ve sent my kid to daycare each day with one less item of clothing than the day before, and, after having misplaced three pairs in one week due to abandonment in the school yard, I’ve given up on mittens. Hallelujah!
Much like our clothing and our spirits, our meals, too, are becoming lighter these days. Though I’ve clung to heavier comfort foods like a security blanket, my body is slowly acknowledging that the seasons are shifting and that it’d like more green things, please and thank you.
If you’ve been hanging around here for any amount of time, you’ll have realized that I’m a big fan of meal bowls. I love that they can be as simple or as complex as you want. I love that in most cases, you can prep all of the ingredients ahead of time and pull together a delicious meal on the fly. And I love that they’re endlessly adaptable.
Today I’m sharing a meal bowl that, while still reasonably sturdy, celebrates both the flavours and the lightness of spring. There’s something about the way the ingredients layer together: peppery arugula, vinegary lentils, salty halloumi, crisp asparagus, creamy avocado, crunchy sunflower seeds, and tender pea shoots. If that doesn’t scream spring in a bowl, I don’t know what does.
It may seem as though there are a lot of components here, and there are, but none that can’t be prepared in advance with the exception, perhaps, of the avocado if you’re planning on packing this for your lunch.
The lentils can be cooked, seasoned, and stored in the fridge, the greens washed and spun dry, the seeds toasted, and the asparagus lightly steamed. You could, as a matter of fact, create a ‘build your own bowl’ buffet line and just let people pick and choose what they want. You could also add in other things as you see fit – that’s the beauty of being the boss of your own cooking.
The vast majority of meal bowls that I see use some sort of grain as a base. And while I’m the last person to steer clear of grains, there is merit to swapping in lentils as a base.
For one, these lovely little legumes are a great source of complex carbohydrates, and they’re a very good source of cholesterol-lowering dietary fiber, which helps to keep blood sugar stable, while providing a steady source of energy.
But the benefits don’t stop there. Lentils are a rich source of iron, as well as being a good source of plant-based protein, which is good news for us veg heads. They’re also a great source of heart-healthy folate and magnesium, phosphorous, manganese, zinc, potassium, and B6.
Tips For Making Awesome Lentil Bowls
- Prepare as many of the components in advance as possible. That way, when it’s time to assemble the meal bowls it’ll happen in a matter of minutes.
- The lentils can be cooked and season a day or so in advance and kept in the fridge in an air-tight container.
- Can’t find Halloumi? I’m terribly sorry about that. I recommend checking specialty food stores or Greek markets, but if you can’t find it or don’t feel like traipsing around town looking for it, cubed or crumbled feta would be a good substitute.
- Want to make it vegan? Try making tofu feta, or simply add seasoned pan-fried tofu instead.
- Asparagus not in season? No problem! Use seamed broccolini or another green vegetable of your choice instead.
- Feel like it needs more heft? Do feel free to add a whole grain such as brown rice or farro.
Other Meal Bowl Recipes You Might Enjoy:
spring living lentil bowls
- 1 cup beluga lentils or other small lentils such as du puy
- 1/2 a yellow onion peeled, but root intact
- 1 garlic clove smashed
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 4 Tbsp red wine vinegar
- salt to taste
- 8 cups mixed greens I used arugula and baby spinach
- 1 bunch asparagus
- 8 oz halloumi cheese see post notes for substitutions
- 1 avocado sliced
- 1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds
- 1 cup pea shoots
- Check the lentils over for stones and give them a good rinse, then set them in a pot with 1 1/2 cups of water, 1/2 an onion, the smashed garlic clove, and the bay leaf.
- Bring to a boil, uncovered, then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer with the lid ajar for about 20 minutes.
- Start checking them at around the 15 min mark and check every few minutes after that. The lentils should be just barely tender, and still slightly toothsome. Almost all of the water should be absorbed – add more if you need to along the way, the pot shouldn’t run dry.
- When the lentils are done, fish out the onion, garlic clove, and bay leaf, and drain well.
- Place the lentils in a bowl and sprinkle with 1 Tbsp olive oil and 2 Tbsp of red wine vinegar, and a little salt. Stir, then let stand for 5-10 minutes.
- Give the lentils a taste and decide if you want to use the rest of the oil and vinegar (I usually do). Remember that these are going into a bowl with a lot of flavours, so it isn’t essential that they have huge flavour, but nor should they be bland. Set aside, or refrigerate if you’re not making the bowls immediately.
- While the lentils are cooking, prepare the rest of the ingredients.
- Toast the sunflower seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until they smell nutty and fragrant and are just barely browned – but watch them carefully so they don’t burn – then set aside to cool.
- Trim the woody ends from the asparagus and chop it into bite sized pieces. Heat a pan over medium-high heat and add the asparagus along with a couple of tablespoons of water. Place a lid over the top, and allow them to steam for 3-5 minutes, until just barely tender. Remove the asparagus from the pan, and set aside to cool.
- Heat one Tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cubes of halloumi cheese and pan-fry until golden on one side – about 5 minutes. Turn the halloumi and cook for another few minutes until just barely golden on the opposite side. Remove from the heat.
- Slice the avocado, rinse and dry the greens and pea shoots.
- To assemble the bowls divide the greens evenly among four bowls. Top with a generous serving of the cooled lentils, and then layer the asparagus, halloumi, avocado, sunflower seeds, and pea shoots over top.
- Serve immediately, or cover with a lid if you’re packing these for your lunch.