I nearly kissed the airline attendant who brought me a cold lentil salad on my flight home from Paris. I'd been able to get excellent bread, coffee, and chocolate all week, but few legumes, not even this traditional French dish. It's a chilled salad that tastes like spring: sunshine and earth with a hint of fresh green. It's rapide to make and délicieux nestled on salad greens.
Dress this hearty, flexible recipe up by mixing in bite-sized sections of sugar-snap peas, radish, or even steamed asparagus. In the picture below, I've topped it with beet sauerkraut from Two Chicks Farm, as I've topped many savory dishes since I bought a jar. In the summer, try adding chopped tomato or bell pepper.
French Green-Lentil Salad
Active time: 20 minutes. Total time: 45 minutes. Yield: 2 cups or 4 servings.
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 cup green lentils, brown lentils, or for a splurge French Lentilles du Puy (170 grams or 6 ounces)
- 2 cups water
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 carrot
- 1 lemon, juice and zest
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon mustard
- spinach or romaine leaves for serving (optional)
- Mince garlic and set aside. Pick through lentils and rinse thoroughly, as shown in the Basic Bean recipe. Put lentils in a medium pot with water, bay leaf, and salt. Cut carrot lengthwise into quarters and then into 1/4-inch slices crossways and add to lentil mixture. Cover pot and heat to boiling on high, then reduce heat so water barely boils. Cook until lentils are nearly tender, about 30 minutes. Turn off heat and let the pot sit undisturbed for about 10 minutes, until lentils are tender but still hold their shape.
- While lentils rest, zest and squeeze lemon. Mix lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, and garlic in a small bowl or jar.
- When lentils are tender, remove bay leaf and drain lentils thoroughly, saving the broth to cook potatoes or drink like tea. Pour lemon dressing over warm lentils, toss, and taste. Adjust seasonings if needed, then top with lemon zest.
- Chill and serve on spinach or romaine leaves. French Green-Lentil Salad keeps refrigerated for 5 days and freezes well.
- Green and brown lentils cost $1.99 organic and French green lentils are $2.99 a pound in bulk at my local Whole Foods. Julia Child's recipe uses plain brown lentils. The Lentilles du Puy that David Lebovitz raves about, grown on authentic French volcanic soil, cost about $10 a pound plus shipping according to a ChowHound board. Use any of them, depending on availability and your budget, but don't use red lentils for this recipe unless you want mush.
- Cook once, enjoy twice. For a different experience without extra cooking, serve it hot on baby spinach if you'd like; the spinach will cook a bit under the hot lentils.