Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lentil Salad: Simple, Healthy, Goodness

When you hear, “lentils” what is the first thing that comes to mind? Is it the mush in your soup bowl at the diner? Perhaps it’s the blah, healthy alternative to juicy ground meat and fat in a burger (sorry, vegetarians), or maybe even Dal, a staple Indian stew made from the legumes. For me, French lentil salad is the first thought and drool-evoking memory upon hearing the word.

Everyone knows that the French love to fancy up their food. With a little bit of “oui oui” and “huh huh,” even the meager little lentil, becomes magnifique! Lightly coated with a simple, tangy dressing, fresh herbs, and other add-ins, the not-too-exciting lentils of your past, are converted into a delicate and rustic side dish or meal. A high source of protein, fiber, and iron, tiny lentils are a big source of nutrition—especially if you are a vegetarian, and unlike other legumes, they cook fairly quickly.

Although green and brown are the most common, there is a rainbow of colored lentils ranging from bright yellow to stark black; the difference in color delegates the flavor, cooking time, cuisine, and preparation of each type. The delicate French green lentils which are used in salads hold their shape well and maintain a slight bite, but take a little longer to cook through. Although there are varieties of French lentils such as Lentills du Puy, considered superior for salad making, easy-to-find dry green lentils from the grocery store can be made up to be lavish—just be aware that they very easily become mushy if overcooked.

I made this lentil salad as a side dish for dinner the other night and finished the leftovers yesterday for lunch. I literally did not want it to end. I don’t know what it is about lentil salad that I find so addicting. Maybe it’s the texture of the small round discs, the often described light “peppery” flavor of the lentils themselves, or the way that the dressing soaks into each pulse or grain in just the right amount. Garlic, scallions, basil, diced plum tomatoes, and feta cheese are what make this salad special, but the pancetta is by far, my favorite part. I look forward to getting a little nugget of porky goodness on every forkful. Lentils prepared this way work nicely beside just about anything.

Pancetta, essentially an Italian bacon, is a flavorful addition to this lentil salad.
I’ve been doing a lot of job searching lately, and have to say that it feels much better writing to sell lentils rather than myself. I don’t discuss it much because I don’t want to jinx anything, and frankly, I think you’ll agree that it’s not a fun topic to talk about. But if you’re interested in what I’ve been up to lately, it can’t hurt to tell you that I’ve been writing cover letters and sending out resumes left and right. That’s enough of that—I’m snoring already, over here.

Do you know that I am currently trying to read Moby Dick? Without school in my weekly routine, I feel the need to self educate, so I’m reading this brick for fun. Between the letters, the blog, and the classic literature, I have so many words spinning around in my head--including some pirate talk. Friggin’Captain Ahab. I need a job. Cook’s Book and working at the culinary school are keeping me fairly sane. Thanks to everyone who stops by and reads. I love all of the positive reinforcement in the comments—they always bring a smile to my face. I’m excited about what I have in store for you in the next post, so visit soon! :-)

Lentil Salad:

Yield: 4-6 side servings

- 1 cup dry green lentils
- 4 cups water or chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons pancetta, small dice
- 1 large garlic clove, chopped
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup/ 3 plum tomatoes, diced
- 3 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 5 large basil leaves, chopped or torn
- 2 large scallions, thinly sliced
- ½ cup crumbled feta cheese

• Add pancetta to a medium heavy saucepan, and cook until fat is rendered and the pieces are slightly crispy. Cook garlic in the pancetta fat until fragrant. Add lentils, water/stock, and 1 teaspoon salt to the pot; bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook uncovered until lentils are just tender about 25-30 minutes.
• In the meantime, make the dressing: in a small bowl, combine, red wine vinegar and Dijon mustard. Slowly whisk in extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
• When lentils are done cooking, drain in a large sieve and transfer to a bowl. While still warm, toss with the dressing. Mix in tomato, basil, sliced scallions, and top with feta cheese.



When I think of lentils, soup comes to mind! But this salad looks quite inviting. ;)

Good luck on the job search. I laughed out loud when I read you were reading Moby Dick for fun--how's that going???

Victoria said...

Looooove lentils! I completely agree, they are such a great way to add fiber and protein to your diet without lots of calories... and they taste good! This salad looks great, and the pancetta doesn't hurt :)

Healthy Mamma said...

You're so funny! Poor lentils do have a bad rap. I let my kids go w me to Whole Foods and pick out which color/type of lentil they want. It helps them to eat what they've picked out themselves.
We especially love lentil burgers w smoked gouda in our house (check out my recipe on my site, you'll love it!)
I love this salad of yours, especially w the pancetta, one of my few meat products I still splurge on.

Adelina said...

Love lentils even when they are mushy. I love your salad! Love the addition of feta. Enjoy the self education road. I have been re-visiting kindergarten by learning how to sound out words with my daughter... lol

Angie's Recipes said...

I actually have some lentils in the pantry! Love the idea of using lentils in salad.

the constant hunger said...

Lentils are so easy to make, healthy and filling. And I love that you've added pancetta in your recipe. Everything tastes a little better with pancetta.

~Lisa~ said...

I am a lentil lover. And an onion lover. You and I are sister aren't we??? hehe Oui si vois plait (I think I spelled that wrong, my french is really bad). Thanks for sharing. I always appreciate lentil recipes.

Chef Dennis said...

I have finally gotten my girls eating lentils, they would love this salad! the pancetta and feta were great much flavor!
thanks for sharing!

Lazaro Cooks! said...


Best of luck with your job hunting. I know that sucks bigtime. Sending you loads of postive energy.

I adore lentils, especially with fish. Love your preparation. i can see why you'd wanna eat it all the time.

I love Cook's Book and am eagerly awaiting what you have in store next.

Be well...

Monet said...

I discovered lentils a few years ago...and what a staple they have become in my kitchen! This salad looks great, and I'm excited to try it. I read Moby Dick "for fun" a few years ago (it didn't end up being that "fun" but I hope you are enjoying it more :-) Thank you for's to a beautiful weekend! You deserve it.

Jescel said...

i love lentils, but haven't made salad out of them. it's time i try it as such... thanks for the inspiration.

Kate said...

Love lentils! This salad sounds like a wonderful way to serve them! Kate @ kateiscooking

Lauren Zabaneh said...

I totally get your weird lentil love. I never really thought they were anything special until I had my mother-in-law's lentil soup. She uses the orange lentils, with onion, cumin, water, salt and pepper. that's it. Doesn't sound great but you really taste the lentils. I could eat it all day.

But! I have to say, your lentil salad looks amazing and so refreshing. I'm adding this to next week's menu. Delish!

Cake Duchess said...

I think a lentil salad is perfect for me to make here in Florida because it is still not that cold yet. Great recipe. I could eat lentils every day! :)Have a wonderful weekend Marisa and good luck with the job hunt! (How's Moby Dick so far?)

Trish said...

Sounds perfect. I love cooking with lentils. This seems like a great hearty dish for a cold winter's night. Thanks for sharing.

The Mom Chef said...

I cook mostly with red lentils, which mush up very well. I like lentil soup too, but have to admit that I've never tried lentils in a salad. Yours looks absolutely wonderful. Thank you for sharing.

And, good luck with the book, matey!

Sommer J said...

We love lentils in this house! Moroccan Lentil Salad was the first way I've ever prepared them and after that I've been in love. This recipe looks amazing!!! The French really do laugh like that btw. haha. I about died laughing while riding on the Metro in Paris last Spring...

Magic of Spice said...

I love lentils, in fact I just finished a bowl of soup for lunch and now trying to catch up on my blog reading...then there you were :) Great recipe :)
Good luck with the job searching, I am sure you will find something great!