New York City Ballet Soloist Miriam Miller Shares Her Leftover-Friendly Lentil Salad Recipe
For Miriam Miller, Mondays are all about meal prep. The New York City Ballet soloist’s busy schedule requires her to stay organized when it comes to cooking, and to spend part of her day off planning and shopping for the week ahead. One of Miller’s favorite dishes is her endlessly variable lentil salad, based on a recipe from her Gyrotonic instructor Emily Smith. “It’s a perfect dinner party or potluck recipe,” says Miller. “And it’s great for dancers when we’re in season because we don’t have much time. With this dish you can really utilize anything that you have in your fridge and make up a new combo every time.”
One of Miller’s favorite parts of cooking is trying new recipes. “It’s relatable to the New York City Ballet, because we do such an abundance of rep,” she says. “I think I’d get bored if I was doing the same thing over and over again. During our seasons, I’ll perform a different ballet every night, which is similar to the way that I like to cook.”
Hostess or Curator?
Though during the week Miller cooks just for herself and her boyfriend, she hosts guests for meals whenever she can. “For me, the fun of cooking is preparing a meal for friends and curating something that is applicable to their tastes,” she says. During the holidays, she squeezes up to six in her small New York City kitchen for dinner parties, preparing many dishes all day. She also loves creating themed menus: “If I were to travel to Italy and have an amazing experience at a restaurant, it would be a feat for me to try and re-create the things I loved there. Or to make a meal of all of my grandmother’s recipes. They’re odes to past memories.”
Air Fryer Fanatic
Miller can’t get enough of her recently acquired air fryer. “I finally pulled the trigger on it,” she says. “It was hyped for so long, and now I understand why.” So far she’s used it most successfully for fish and chips, chicken, potatoes, crispy tofu, Brussels sprouts and other veggies. “It’s so efficient! You just throw everything in the basket and spray with a little avocado oil and get the crispiest foods.”
• 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
• 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
• 1 tbsp maple syrup
• 1 tbsp Dijon or spicy brown mustard
• 2 tsps salt
• 2 tsps ground pepper
• 1 tsp ground cumin
• 1/2 tsp ground coriander
• 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
• 1/4 tsp ground cloves
• 1/4 tsp nutmeg
• 1/4 tsp cinnamon
• 1 lb (2 1/4 cups) dried black lentils
• 1 medium red onion (finely diced)
• 1 cup diced dried fruit of choice (You can try currants, raisins, figs or dates. Miller tends to go for chopped dates.)
• 1/3 cup chopped capers
• handful of fresh herbs, such as parsley, cilantro, basil or mint
• roughly 1 cup crumbled goat cheese or feta (to your liking)
• a few handfuls of greens (Miller likes to use arugula, but baby kale or spinach will also work.)
“This recipe is easily adapted to whatever you have on hand or is seasonably available,” says Miller. “Use the dressed lentils as a foundation, and then get creative with your add-ins, experimenting with different flavor combinations!”
• Nuts and seeds: Chopped walnuts, pistachios, pecans or pumpkin seeds
• Fresh fruit: Pomegranate seeds or diced apples
• Veggies: Finely chopped cucumbers, fresh tomatoes, olives, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, sweet potatoes or any roasted vegetables
- Rinse and drain the lentils, then cook according to package directions. Check for doneness a bit early, as the lentils should be al dente, retaining a slight firmness.
- While the lentils simmer, place all vinaigrette ingredients in a mason jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake until fully combined. Set aside. (“If you don’t have one of the spices, don’t worry about it,” says Miller. “I’ve made it without coriander many times and don’t miss it. The dressing is still super-flavorful and delicious!”)
- Prepare the remaining salad ingredients and any extra add-ins you’d like. All ingredients should be roughly the same size, so finely dice the onion and chop the dried fruit, capers and any nuts, fresh fruits or veggies you decide to use.
- Once the lentils are finished cooking, remove from heat, drain and rinse with cold water. Let cool slightly, then place in a large bowl. Give the vinaigrette another quick shake, then pour over the lentils and toss to combine. Add the onion, dried fruit, capers and any other add-ins to the bowl of lentils and mix together with a large spoon. Just before serving, tear the fresh herbs over the top and sprinkle with the crumbled cheese. If using greens, you can either mix them into the salad or place them in a separate bowl and top with the lentil salad.
Tip: The lentil salad can be stored in the fridge for several days. In fact, Miller believes that it gets tastier after 24 hours, once the flavors have had a chance to meld. But the greens and herbs can get soggy, so it’s best to prepare them separately before enjoying each serving.