Main course salads perfect for lunch

Welcome Back!

Yesterday I dug my lunch bag out of the closet where it had been deposited for the summer. September 6th marks the calendar year of the beginning of a new school year, the end of summer holidays and the start of making lunches once again either for work or for school.

One of my summer escapes took me to the Annapolis Valley in beautiful Nova Scotia to visit my sister, Susan. Not only did I have a great visit but I enjoyed someone else’s cooking. Susan is a great believer in producing simple yet tasty fare at mealtime perfect for – you guessed it – brown bagging it.

I packed these recipes in my carry-on as a reminder of a happy holiday and good eating, perfect for a late-summer lunch.

Lentil Beet and Pepper Salad

This all-Canadian mixture of lentils, beets and assorted peppers is ideal to make in the early fall when everything is plentiful. It keeps several days in the refrigerator and is a hearty “main course” salad which could be served at lunch or dinner.

Lentils are a good source of protein when coupled with a whole grain, such as whole-wheat bread, which makes them perfect for a vegetarian.


2 cups (500 mL) dried lentils, either brown or green

Water to cover

2 cups (500 mL) sliced cooked beets fresh or canned

1 cup (250 mL) sliced red, yellow or orange peppers or mixture (about 1 small pepper or 1/2 large pepper)

1 cup (250 mL) each, cherry tomatoes, halved & sliced celery

1/4 cup (50 mL) each, sliced green onions and chopped fresh dill

1/4 cup (50 mL) shaved fresh Parmesan or Asiago cheese or spoonful of fresh yogurt


1/2 cup (125 mL) extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup (50 mL) red or white wine vinegar

1/2 tsp (2 mL)    salt

1/4 tsp (1 mL) fresh black pepper

Wash and drain lentils. Place in stainless steel saucepan, cover with water and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, bring to a boil and simmer uncovered until tender about 30 minutes.

Drain and rinse in cool water. Add lentils to a large mixing bowl with peppers, celery, green onion, parsley or dill and beets. In a small bowl, whisk together oil, wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Taste.

Adjust seasoning and pour vinaigrette over salad tossing to coat vegetables evenly. Serve immediately with cheese or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Makes about 5 cups (1.25 L)

Quinoa Black Bean and Vegetable Salad

Another main course salad, this one features black beans which could be substituted with chickpeas or white navy beans. For convenience, canned beans could be used instead of cooking dried beans.


1/3 cup (75 mL) quinoa

1 cup (250 mL) water

1 cup (250 mL) coarsely chopped, assorted peppers: red, yellow

1 cup (250 mL     cooked corn niblets, sliced celery or cauliflower florets

1 can (19 oz/ 540 mL) black beans, drained &rinsed

2 green onions, sliced

2 tbsp (25 mL) chopped fresh cilantro (coriander)


1 tbsp (15 mL)    vegetable oil

1 1/2 tbsp (17 mL) fresh lime or lemon juice

2 tsp (10 mL) chopped fresh hot pepper (or to taste)

1/2 tsp (2 mL)    salt

1/4 tsp (1 mL) fresh black pepper

In a saucepan cover quinoa with water and bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer covered about 15 minutes or until water is absorbed and quinoa is tender. Cool.

In a mixing bowl stir together cooked quinoa, peppers, corn, onions and coriander. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together oil, lime juice, hot pepper, salt and pepper. Pour dressing over salad, tossing to coat evenly. Makes about 3 cups (750 mL)

Jan Main is an author, cooking  instructor and caterer

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