Sunday, May 29, 2011

Warm Lentil Salad

 I'm partial to thick, hearty vegetable stews in the winter and light tossed salads in the summer. I'm excited to introduce to you a perfect combination of the two for spring: Warm Lentil Salad. Still tossed fresh salad-style but loaded with spring root vegetables such as radishes, parsley and carrots, this recipe is baked at the end of its preparation to deliver a warm simple crunch that is a perfect temperature for a warm spring day, or cool spring night.

I took this recipe from the New York Times "Recipes for Health" section, but added a few extra veggies and a sliced orange to give the dish more flavor for a main rather than a side. In addition to the delightful crisp texture, the juxtaposition of the earthy vegetable flavors and orange/vinegar/mustard derived acidity makes this recipe truly outstanding.

Warm Lentil Salad
Yield: Serves 4 to 6 as a main dish salad, 8 as a side
Advance preparation: The lentils can be made and tossed with the dressing up to 3 days ahead. Do not add the parsley until just before warming the salad.

My substitutions: fat-free feta cheese instead of goat, regular lentils, adding vegetable broth to the water to cook the lentils, and skipped the bayleaf (only because I didn't have one.)

 1 pound green or beluga lentils (about 2 1/4 cups), washed and picked over
1 cup vegetable broth (optional)
1 medium onion, cut in half and peeled
1/2 cup carrot, chopped
1/3 cup thinly sliced radishes
1 cup arugula
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 bay leaf (optional)
Salt, preferably kosher salt to taste
1/4 cup minced flat-leaf parsley, or a mixture of parsley and chives
4 ounces fresh goat cheese, cut in rounds OR crumbled fat-free feta
1 orange, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
For the dressing:
1/4 cup sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup cooking liquid from the lentils
Salt, preferably kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Place the lentils and carrots in a large saucepan or soup pot with the halved onion, the garlic cloves, and the bay leaf. Add enough water to cover by 1 1/2 inches.*  Bring to a simmer, add 1 teaspoon salt, cover and simmer 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender all the way through but intact. Set a strainer over a bowl and drain the lentils. Remove the onion halves, bay leaf, and garlic and discard. Return the liquid to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to 1/2 cup.
2. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Whisk together the vinegar, garlic, Dijon mustard, olive oil, and cooking liquid from the lentils. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss with the lentils. Stir in the parsley (or parsley and chives), radishes, and arugula; place in a baking dish and top with the rounds of goat cheese. Heat through for 15 minutes, until the goat cheese has softened, and serve.

*If using vegetable broth, add 1 cup to uncooked lentils and fill the rest of the way with water until the liquid combination covers lentil by 1 1/2 inches.

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