Are you ready for more armchair travel by way of a new recipe?
Last week, we traveled to Ethiopia with my recipe for Berbere Sauce, along with my Quinoa, Lentil & Kale Berbere Skillet. I've been using the addictively spicy Berbere Sauce on top of my salads, sweet potatoes, and even as a dip for carrot sticks - I just can't get enough of that flavor!
This week, I'm sharing my simple, yet sophisticated recipe for French Lentil Salad. This dish is a regular dinner dish at my home, and has been for many years. The reason is its ease, its adaptability, and it's comforting flavors. Have you ever cooked with French green lentils? They're smaller than regular green or brown lentils, and they hold their shape better when cooked, rather than turning mushy (which can be undesirable). Lentils are full of protein and fiber, they're nutrient-dense and promote a feeling of grounding and stability. Generally, dried beans are inexpensive and shelf-stable, making them the perfect ingredients to keep on-hand in your pantry. My pantry is full of jars of dried beans of all kinds, but I most often reach for the lentils du puy (French green lentils)!
Fourteen years ago, my husband and I visited the city of Dijon, capital of the Burgundy region of France. Prior to this trip, the only thing I knew of the word "Dijon" was mustard! Yes, it's the mustard that makes this city famous, along with the beautiful architecture, gourmet restaurants, and proximity to some of the best wine-growing land in the world. The mustard that I tasted in Dijon was unlike anything I'd ever tasted before; it was pungent, smooth, complex. I brought home several jars of mustard from France and have continued to carry them home in my suitcase whenever we travel there. The flavor is so unique and just a little bit goes a long way!
One of my favorite ways to use Dijon mustard is in a dressing. I've been making this particular lentil salad for years now, as lentils are the perfect vehicle to cling to this Dijon mustard-based dressing. This salad is versatile - it tastes delicious served warm, at room temperature, or even chilled. In the summertime, I enjoy a big spoonful of the chilled lentils on top of an arugula salad, and in the winter, I serve the lentils warm as a side dish to a simple roasted chicken. Leftovers of this salad taste wonderful, the depth of the dressing's flavor improves over time.
The herb mixture used in the dressing, herbes de Provence, is a dried herb blend that is common to south-eastern France. This blend typically includes savory, marjarom, rosemary, thyme and oregano. Sometimes, lavender buds are also included in the mix. I use herbes de Provence in a variety of recipes, but this particular recipe really highlights the combination of all the herbs harmoniously. Herbes de Provence can be easily found, it is usually sold in jars in the spice aisle at the grocery store. However, my favorite place to buy this blend, if I can't bring it home from France, is to order online from The Spice House.
Give the recipe a try and let me know your thoughts, I hope it transports you to France - without the hassle of leaving home!
Wishing you a relaxing weekend, full of delicious food, health & wellness.
French Lentil Salad
Ingredients: (note - use organic whenever possible)
1 C dried French lentils (also called lentils du puy)
1 bay leaf
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t Dijon mustard
1 T red wine vinegar
3 T extra virgin olive oil
2 t herbes de Provence
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 C chopped parsley
Place lentils in a fine mesh sieve, rinse under cool water. Pour into a small saucepan and cover with cold water. Add a bay leaf. Heat pan over high heat until boiling, then cover the pan and lower heat to low, keeping the lentils simmering. Cook for 18-20 minutes, until tender and al-dente. Pour into the fine mesh sieve, rinse again with cool water, and set aside. Remove and discard the bay leaf.
Meanwhile, heat 2 T olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Once hot, add the finely chopped onion, carrots and celery. Toss to coat in the hot oil. Lower heat to low and continue to cook until the vegetables are softened and slightly browned, 10-12 minutes. The low heat allows the vegetables to caramelize and get sweeter, by drawing out their natural sugars. Add the minced garlic and stir to combine, continue to cook for an additional 3 minutes.
While the lentils and vegetables are cooking, combine the Dijon mustard and red wine vinegar in a small bowl. Slowly pour the extra virgin olive oil into the bowl, stirring continuously to form a creamy sauce. Add the herbes de Provence, folding them into the sauce. Season to taste with sea salt & freshly ground black pepper.
Pour the cooked lentils into the sauté pan with the onion mixture and gently toss to combine. Add the sauce to the pan and stir to mix all of the components together. Gently reheat the mixture over low heat for 10 minutes, to allow all of the flavors to combine. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.
Serve the lentil salad topped with freshly chopped parsley.
recipe yields 3-4 servings
double the ingredients to yield more servings
lentils can be cooked ahead of time, drained and kept in a covered container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days
leftover salad can be kept in a covered container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days
replace the red wine vinegar with balsamic or white wine vinegar for a different delicious flavor