Updated: Oct 24, 2019
Lentils are an important a staple in other cultures around the world, but I feel like they get a bad rap stateside. Many Americans deem lentils mushy, brown, unappealing and overly healthy..."hippie" food basically. I'm here to advocate for the humble lentil! They are delicious, budget friendly and really nutritious. However, they need to be prepared with care and awareness. While readily available brown and green lentils are tasty in stews and veggie burgers, you should consider exploring this petite legume's colorful cousins. Red and yellow lentils are perfectly suited to Indian daals and curries. Black lentils, also called "beluga" because they resemble caviar, pack an added flavor punch in both soups and salads. For this simple dish, however, it's all about French lentils, or lentilles du puy. They have thicker skin than brown lentils which means they don't turn into mush when cooked- they only take 22 minutes or so to reach optimal tenderness. They're also a beautiful slate green color and look gorgeous in a bowl studded with colorful vegetables and herbs. You can adapt this salad to fit any season and/or mood. Add additional herbs if you have a lot of something growing in your garden. Nix the bacon if you're looking for a vegetarian course. Throw in some spinach, cherry tomatoes, crumbled goat cheese, or toasted nuts... go wild! This recipe is so versatile! Of course, the classic pairing for these lentils is a perfectly cooked piece of salmon, but serve it alongside anything you like. Reheat the leftovers and nestle a fried egg on top- maybe some wilted greens and sliced avocado on the side...mmm protein bowl heaven!
*prep time: 15 min. *cook time: 35 min. *serves 6 as a side dish
3/4 cup lentilles du puy, or French green lentils
1 bay leaf
1 lightly crushed garlic clove
1 sprig Italian parsley plus 2 tbsp chopped
3 oz diced bacon
1 celery stalk
1 shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tsp dijon
1 tsp grainy mustard
1 tsp honey
2 tbsp champagne vinegar
4 tbsp olive oil
Place lentils, bay leaf, garlic clove and parsley sprig in a medium pot. Fill with enough water to cover lentils by a few inches and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer lentils on low 20-22 minutes, until al dente but not mushy. Strain lentils and discard aromatics. Make the vinaigrette by combining mustards, vinegar, honey, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper (or to taste) in a bowl or mixing cup. Whisk in the olive oil to emulsify. Set vinaigrette aside. Wipe out the same pot used to cook lentils and return to medium heat. Add bacon to pot with 1 tsp olive oil and cook until bacon is beginning to brown and has rendered some fat, 3-4 minutes. Add carrot, celery and shallot to bacon and cook until vegetables are softened and lightly brown, 5-7 minutes. Return lentils to the pot with the vinaigrette and the chopped parsley and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve warm or at room temperature.