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.|
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! :-)
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.