Thursday, June 21, 2012

French Lentil Salad a la Orangette

I read about this one years ago when I was first getting into reading food blogs. Naturally, I gravitated toward Molly, of Orangette, who is a blog goddess. I filed it away for later. For a variety of reasons, I had not eaten lentils much until recently, but now that I have given them a chance we eat them a lot, and this is my current favorite preparation. It's the type of thing I want to eat outside on a summer evening with crusty bread, some juicy grapes, and a bottle of ice cold Perrier. In Paris. (A girl can dream, right?)

As with the Pesto Potato Salad with Green Beans I shared yesterday, this is great warm, at room temperature, or cold. I love it cold the next day, shared with my little bambino, Bryce. That's right, my baby loves it! He practically squeals for more!

This recipe generously serves 2 as an entree, and 4 as a side. I say that because, though it may look like a paltry amount, it is so filling that you only need a small portion to feel full. And yet, it's so light and delightful. I really can't praise it highly enough.

Delicious? Check. Simple? Check. Healthy? Check. It's got it all.

French Lentil Salad
from Orangette

1 c. dry French green lentils, picked over and rinsed
3 c. water
1  bay leaf
{If you're lucky enough to have a Trader Joes around, you can skip these ingredients and the accompanying instructions in favor of the pre-cooked steamed lentils from the produce section (near the prepared salads)}
1/2 tsp. salt, divided
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme
5 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
2 Tbsp. + 1/2 tsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
Crunchy sea salt, for serving
2 Tbsp. finely chopped Italian parsley, for serving

In a medium saucepan, bring the lentils, water, and bay leaf to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until almost tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in 1/4 tsp. salt, and then simmer, covered, for another 3 to 5 minutes, until tender but not falling apart.

While the lentils simmer, warm 1 Tbsp. of the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-low heat. Add the shallot, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme, and 1/8 teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, about 7 to 9 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette. In a small bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons vinegar, mustard, and remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil, and whisk to emulsify. (Or do as I do, and stick all the ingredients in a mason jar and shake, shake, shake!)

When the lentils are ready, drain them in a colander or sieve, and discard the bay leaf. Dump them into the skillet with the vegetables, and add the vinaigrette. Cook over low heat, stirring gently, until heated through. Stir in the remaining 1/2 tsp. vinegar, and serve warm, or set in the fridge to chill. When ready to eat, garnish with with crunchy salt and chopped parsley.

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