Saturday, September 10, 2011

French lentil salad

Being almost vegetarian we eat a lot of lentils. My latest love is French green lentils also known as puy lentils. They cook quickly and retain their shape unlike their brown cousins which can turn to mush pretty quickly. Hence, they are great in salads.

I like the combination of black grapes (this is the peak season for grapes), dried sweet cherries, salted pecans, bell peppers, and scallions, dressed with sherry vinegar and walnut oil. The walnut oil gives the salad a rich nutty flavor. The salad makes a great lunch with a slice of country bread and some fruity olive oil for dipping and it is perfect for picnics since it is very portable.

French lentil salad 

1/2 cup French green lentils ( I used organic green lentils)
1 large garlic clove, skinned and lightly bruised
1 carrot, cut into 2 inch pieces
1 stick of celery, cut into 2 inch pieces
One salt free vegetarian stock cube (optional)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

10 black grapes, cut into quarters (they are my personal favorite, but other varieties can be substituted)
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
10 dried sweet cherries (you can use tart cherries if you like a tart flavor)
One spring onion, finely minced, white and green parts
1 tablespoon good quality aged sherry vinegar (the cheaper ones are too acidic)
2 tablespoons roasted walnut oil 
1/3 cup roasted salted pecans, broken into pieces
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Place the lentils, garlic, carrot, celery, stock cube if using and salt in a saucepan and add enough water so that it is about 2 inches above the lentils. Bring it to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer - it takes about 35 minutes to cook. If the lentils are old they make take longer. The lentils should be soft but still hold their shape. Once done, remove the garlic, carrot, and celery and drain the lentils. Transfer to a bowl. Add 1/2 tablespoon sherry vinegar and 1 tablespoon walnut oil to the lentils while it is still warm so that it absorbs the flavors better.
  2. Once the lentil has cooled, add the grapes, bell pepper, cherries, spring onion, and pecans and toss well. Then add the balance 1/2 tablespoon sherry vinegar and 1 tablespoon walnut oil. Mix well. Check for salt and pepper and adjust according to your taste. It is best to serve the salad at least an hour after making to allow for the flavors to meld. 
  3. Serve at room temperature.
Serves 3

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