As you know, I love lentils. Of the four varieties currenly in my kitchen, the regular inexpensive brown ones are my favorite.
But, this weekend, they just may have been replaced! And not in the form of a soup, at that, but instead by a salad.
This is a salad that would be great during the summer months because it requires no refrigeration for several hours, but can sit patiently while waiting for the meats to be grilled. All the while its flavors will keep getting better and better.
NOTE: Must be made a few hours ahead to allow flavors to develop.
To make a small batch, you will need:
- 2 ½ cups French green lentils
- 6 cups water (or to cover by about 2 inches
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 bay leaf, optional
- Preserved lemon peel, approximately 1 tablepsoon or equal to ½ of a lemon, fruit and peel (no seeds)
- 1 cup fresh parsley
- 2 to 4 cloves garlic
- ½ cup olive oil
- Garnishes: more olive oil, diced preserved lemon peel, grated fresh lemon zest, minced fresh parsley
- Rinse the lentils and pick through. The one time you don’t check the lentils is the one time you bite down on a rock (or a guest does), and ends up having emergency dental work.
- Place the lentils in a large pot, and cover with water. Add the bay leaf and the salt (optional), and bring to boil. Reduce to a simmer, and simmer for about 45 minutes. If you are using regular brown lentils, watch carefully and test for doneness, as they will “blow-out” and lose their pretty shape.
- I used the French green lentils which hold their shape pretty well, and also soften well. Also good are the black beluga lentils, but they are much pricier and harder to come by.
- Once the lentils are done, set aside and let cool. Before draining, taste a few and make sure that they are soft enough for your taste. Then drain. Instead of draining the whole pot, I usually remove them using a slotted spoon to see what the yield is. If the yield is too much, I have some of the juice to have a little soup.
- While the lentils are cooking, make the dressing. If you used Meyer lemons, and/or you like the taste of the flesh of your preserved lemons, feel free to use the flesh of your preserved lemons. Mine are made with Meyer lemons and have absolutely no bitterness whatsoever, so, the only thing I had to make sure of was to get out all the seeds. Place about half of a lemon’s worth in the food processor, along with 2 to 4 garlic cloves, the parlsey, and ¼ cup of olive oil to move things along. Process until everything is just chopped, not a paste.
Add the dressing to the drained lentils and mix well. Add the remaining ¼ cup olive oil as needed.
- Let sit for an hour or so for the lentils to absorb the dressing. It is best for the lentils to still be a little warm to absorb the dressing. As the lentils absorb the dressing and cool down, the flavor will mellow.
Note: My preserved lemons are about 3 ½ months old, and have a slightly funky, almost fermented taste. When added to simple dishes like this, the taste that comes through is an exceptionally clean lemon taste. I had a coworker taste this a few days after it was made. Knowing she’s not a fan of lentils, she was really in love with the flavor of the dressing, just not the texture of my favorite little legumes. Baby steps.
Here is the recipe for the preserved lemons:
This was served at a “Porch Party” family get together alongside some Roasted Red Peppers with Capers, a Mint and Green Onion Labne, and some Hummus that a cousin had brought as well as an assortment of fabulous cheeses, smoked salmon and other goodies. What is usually a unspoken yet planned hang-out turned out to be a wonderful Mezza.
Here’s the recipe for the Roasted Red Peppers: https://icookforleftovers.wordpress.com/2013/02/06/antipasto-roasted-red-peppers-with-garlic-and-capers/
Here’s the recipe for the Labne with Mint and Green Onions:
Combined, the three make the starting basis for a decent mezza.
I made a double batch of the Lentil Salad because my sister-in-law and I decided we wanted leftovers to take home.
NOTE: If you do make the lentil salad, buyer beware: the green lentils available in the bulk bins do not hold up well for a salad. Spend the extra 50 cents to a dollar per pound for the lentils that will not burst, whether they are the green or the black ones. It makes a definite difference in the texture of the salad. (Think mushy lentil soup – does not make refreshing lentil salad as pictured above). I made a version yesterday using the French green lentils from the bulk bins, and the did not hold their shape and did not make the same beautiful salad I had the week before. Part of the beauty of the salad is in the quality of the texture.