Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Puy lentil salad

I love lentils. I grew up eating a tomato-sauce based lentil salad that my dad read about in a newspaper long ago and has been making ever since. It was one of those dishes that, no matter what kind of food-mood my sister and I were in, we'd be happy to see on the dining table at dinnertime. You know what I mean- sometimes you'd come home from school, famished after a long practice or a game. When dinner presented itself in the form of, let's say, cold tofu, salad, broiled fish and pickled daikon, it wouldn't exactly fit your food mood. I use that example not because I don't love Japanese food- it's just that sometimes my growling tummy was looking forward to a big fat lasagna or a nice bowl of oyako-don. And of course I use an example from when I was younger since I now have the power to make whatever suits any food mood I may be in.

Back to lentils. This particular lentil salad that became a family favorite is tomatoey, garlicky and made with regular brown lentils. It was my introduction to the humble legume. Since then, I've had various kinds of lentils in many preparations. Soups, salads, dips, crostini, etc. I love them all, but I believe I've found a lentil that I may love as much as my first lentil. It's small, green and holds it's shape much better than their brown counterparts. Yes, meet the Puy Lentil.

Although I'm sure I've had puy lentils at many restaurants, I didn't really notice it's beauty until I had a taste of Nicole's salad. I was at my favorite local shop, Nicole's Gourmet Imports, about a year ago and was looking for something quick to pick up for a side dish. Among the beautiful wedges of cheese, piles of duck confit and towering blocks of foie gras mousse, I saw a plate of the green lentils- looking plain and simple in a large, white dish. Since foie gras and cheese don't exactly make the best side dishes to grilled fish (although who can say? I would totally eat those things anywhere on any plate!) I bought about a pint of the lentil salad. I didn't really think about it much and drove the 2 miles back to my house.

Once I had a bite of the salad, I was hooked. It was fresh and nutty, tart and fragrant.....and as far as I could tell, there were less than five ingredients total. On my next visit, Nicole confirmed this- simply boil the lentils, add chopped red onion and parsley, douse with some good olive oil and finish it with some red wine vinegar. I quickly bought a box of the dried puy lentils and made the salad at home. That was a year ago, and after some tweaking, I think I've come up with a very good version. I never use exact measurements and it really depends on how vinegary or peppery you'd like your salad to be. Lately, I've been using herbed salts that my husband brought back from Brazil- instead of regular salt, I'll add some of the Rosemary salt and some of the Basil salt.

Puy Lentil Salad

I love this salad because it showcases the earthy, nutty flavor of the lentils. I prefer to use more vinegar than oil since I love the mild acidity of red wine vinegar. Again- you can adjust each ingredient to suit your taste.

1 box of puy lentils (French green lentils)
1 yellow onion, split in half
3 bay leaves
3 sprigs of thyme

1 large red onion, diced
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped fine
red wine vinegar
olive oil (a nice, fruity one works best)
cracked black pepper
sea salt

optional: herbs de provence

Rise the lentils in a colander and pick out any seeds or rice that might be mixed in. Put the lentils in a large pot and cover with cold water. Add the yellow onion, bay leaves and thyme to the pot- bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 18 minutes. (Note: the lentils will soak up a lot of the water). Drain and put in a large bowl (do not rinse the lentils because you will wash off all of the flavor from the cooking liquid!).

In a smaller bowl, whisk red wine vinegar and olive oil together. I usually use about 3 TBS of olive oil and 1/2 cup of red wine vinegar but again, adjust this amount to your taste. Add the red onion and parsley to the bowl of lentils and pour the vinegar mixture over the top. Mix thoroughly and add salt, cracked pepper and, if using, herbs to your taste.

Best if served at room temperature. Also good cold!




Janice said...

Hi there!
Really enjoy your blog! I'm also a girl just living and eating in LA and having tons of fun while at it! Hope you can come visit my site one day!

Carlyn said...

Salad looks wonderful!!!! Especially for these hot days...I'm going to try this recipe this weekend!!! Thank you.