Saturday, May 23, 2009

Learning to Love Lentils: French-style Lentil Salad

Although I have limited food storage, I somehow find lots of places to stockpile groceries (what can I say? I have a weakness for the latest and greatest from Whole Foods and Trader Joes.). But I’ve been making a conscious effort to try to use up what I have before I buy something new. And that includes the three varieties of lentils stacked on top of my microwave (hey – space is at a premium). I bought the red ones for soup, I bough the brown ones because the red ones get too mushy in this stew and I bought the green ones because of all of the lentil salad recipes I’ve been reading lately. The weather is warming up, so eating lentil salad is sounding more and more appealing. And based on what I've read, the dish can take a little improvisation, which makes it my kind of meal. Earlier this week, I tossed a cup of green French lentils (product of Canada, per the label. Perhaps they are Québécois?!) in a pot with some chopped celery and carrot (leftover from an aborted soup making endeavor), a piece of red bell pepper (roughly chopped) that was going slimy, a small white onion (halved), a clove of garlic and a bay leaf. I dumped in about two cups of chicken broth (leftover from takeout Won Ton soup) and simmered for about 45 minutes. While the lentils bubbled away, I minced a shallot, and threw it in a bowl with some red wine vinegar, a spoonful of Dijon mustard and olive oil. Once the lentil mixture was tender, I drained it briefly and tossed the lentil mixture in the vinaigrette. A few grinds of black pepper and it was done. There was enough to bring to work for three consecutive days -- served over baby spinach with some chopped cucumber, grape tomatoes and a sprinkle of goat cheese crumbles for added interest. Not too bad as a way to clean the cupboard and the crisper.
“Leftovers” Lentil Salad Feel free to improvise with this recipe. Throw in whatever vegetables you have, fresh herbs, etc. Some people suggest sautéing the vegetables first/separately, but I was lazy and just cooked them with the lentils. Ingredients 1 cup French lentils (ideally du Puy) 2 cup water or broth 1 clove of garlic, peeled and halved 1 small onion, peeled and halved ½ cup carrot, chopped 2 ribs celery, chopped ¼ cup red bell pepper, chopped 1 Bay leaf 1 small shallot, finely minced 1 t. of Dijon mustard 1 T. red wine vinegar 3 T. olive oil Ground black pepper Method Rinse and pick over the lentils (there sometimes can be small stones). Add lentils, water or broth, onion, garlic, carrot, celery, red pepper and Bay leaf, to pot. Simmer on low for approximately 45 minutes. In a separate bowl whisk together shallot, mustard and vinegar; stream in olive oil while continuing to whisk. When lentils are tender, drain and discard Bay leaf (and onion and garlic, if you wish); combined drained lentils and vegetables with vinaigrette. Serve warm or chill.

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