I have been corresponding with the proprietor of the place we will be staying in the Loire Valley of France. He was the one who inspired me to make the Chicken Under a Brick in a previous post. He kindly sent me this recipe for lentil salad that he likes to serve with the chicken.
We spent last weekend visiting our family in Cary, NC. I love spending time with the Grandchildren, but I also like Cary for the Trader Joes, Whole Foods and The Fresh Market. Kristen and I made a trip to Whole Foods while I was there. I was on a hunt for French lentils. Lentilles du Puy are grown in central France in Auvergne. The volcanic soil and dry climate allow the lentils to dry on the plant. They are thus smaller, less starchy than other lentils, and have a more intense peppery flavor.
Lentils benefit from added flavor. This salad is brightened with sprigs of thyme, bay leaves, whole cloves, garlic and red wine vinegar. Sprinkled with goat cheese and cherry tomatoes it is a winner. Served at room temperature, it goes well with grilled meats or as a stand alone dish for lunch. Thanks for the recipe Steve. It was delicious!
SALADE DES LENTILLES ET CHEVRE
2 cups (about a 1 pound box) of French lentils
1 tsp salt
Splash of red wine vinegar
1 sugar cube
1 carrot, minced
1 shallot, minced
1/2 cup best quality olive oil
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 shallot, minced
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup best quality olive oil, or to taste
8 oz “semi-dry goat cheese . . not the soft, fresh logs
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup snipped chives
Cherry tomatoes for garnish
Rinse clean, then put the lentils in a heavy-bottom saucepan of about 8 inches diameter, cover the lentils by 2 inches of filtered water, then add the salt, sugar, vinegar, minced carrot and shallot and Bouquet Garni. Stir and bring slowly to the simmer, lower heat and cover (just like cooking rice) and set the timer for 25 minutes. Make sure the water does not evaporate. After 20 minutes, check the lentils. Depending on the age and other factor, they should be cooked, but not at all mushy, in 25-30 minutes. If they are cooked but you have water remaining in the pot, drain the water off and return to the pan to the lowest heat to carefully evaporate what water remains. Conversely, if you run out of water and the lentils are still undercooked, add boiling water 1/4 cup at a time and cook until done. The goal is to have no water left when the lentils are cooked, as it would dilute the dressing.
Put 1/2 cup of olive oil and the minced garlic into a large bowl. Pour the hot lentils on top of the garlic and oil and do not disturb for a couple of minutes. The heat of the lentils will slightly cook the garlic, taking the edge off. Then mix to combine, add the vinegar, salt and pepper to taste and leave to cool. The bowl should be big enough to spread out the lentils so they cool quickly and evenly.
Once cool, add the other minced shallot, and more olive oil, salt and pepper if you feel they are needed. Mix well. Remove the rind from the goat cheese and crumble it into the bowl, and mix very well to end up without any large chunks of goat cheese. Add the parsley and chives, mix and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or overnight if possible. Don’t worry about correcting the seasonings at this point, as they really need a rest to develop the full range of flavors.
To serve, bring back to room temperature. Mix again, check for salt, pepper, olive oil and vinegar. Take your time adjusting the flavors so you get it just right. Serve. Bon Courage et Bon Appetit!!
*4 sprigs thyme, 2 imported bay leaves, 6 coves, 2 garlic cloves, 1/4 tsp celery seeds, tied in cheesecloth, cloves and celery seeds tied in a clean teabag.
I just sprinkled the goat cheese on top and added two stalks of chopped celery for added crunch.