Lentil salad is one of the first things I learned to do more than 30 years ago, and I still make it today …
Part of the reason for this is that it reminds me of the mother of my best friend Rose, one of my first cooking heroes. She had a wooden box of recipes on her kitchen counter, full of clips from Craig Claiborne New York Times, and was the only person I knew who went on special trips to find special ingredients, never quite happy with the local supermarket where we all shopped. No matter when I walked into her kitchen, it smelled amazing, and best of all, for the two always starving teenagers (Rosa’s daughter, Jeni and I) the fridge was always full of leftovers. We knew we were hitting dirt when those leftovers were her shepherd’s pie or her lentil salad.
Another reason I still make her lenses is because she is so light. Easy enough for an ambitious teenager and easy enough starting point for a busy person who just wants to make sure he has something healthy on the dinner table, for himself or his family. The recipe Rosa handed me (which I later copied with my own hands and pasted into my spirally bound “recipe book” – that’s how young I was and how old I was) required cooking lentils in beef broth and tossing salads with essential vinegar. It will be a long time before I become confident enough to think Maybe in addition to tarragon, I can use more vinegar? And another soup besides beef? And these days lentils are thrown away with that vinegar I have in the pantry: white balsamic or sherry or red wine or white wine and simmering in any liquid I have on hand. Another big difference? I use it as a main dish more than as a side dish. All I have to do is add salmon in flakes, boiled crumbled sausage or a seven-minute egg and I have the best dinner: healthy, light, sentimental.
Warm lentil salad
Makes 4 side or 3 main nets
1 1/2 cups brown lentils
2 1/2 – 3 cups liquid (vegetable stock, chicken stock, beef stock, water or any combination thereof) or enough for the lens to cover about an inch
1 bunch of spring onions (white and light green parts), ground
3 tablespoons chopped peppers, any color, I like red (or more to taste)
leaves with 4 sprigs of fresh thyme (or abundant handfuls of finely chopped parsley)
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
a little less than 1/4 cup of vinegar (I used white balsamic, but you can tarragon, red wine, plain balsamic)
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
In a medium saucepan, cook the lentils in the combined broth and water, then reduce the temperature and simmer for 12-15 minutes. While the lentils are cooking, prepare the topping by mixing the mustard, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. When the lens is tender but still retains its shape (try a few to determine tenderness), drain it through a strainer. Toss the lentils warm with the spring onions, pepper, thyme and vinaigrette.
Protein supplements: Two bunches of cooked, crumbled sweet Italian sausage or 3/4-pound salmon fillet (baked at 400 ° F for 12-15 minutes), in flakes; fried eggs or 7-minute eggs topped with chili oil.