Summer salads: Green French lentil salad with carrots and walnuts
Green French Lentil Salad with carrots and walnut and Sherry vinegar dressing
For at least 6 large servings
French lentils are not especially farinaceous and should be cooked just till tender. If overcooked, they lose their shape and become mush. I always make a large quantity of this lentil salad--first served warm and then later refrigerated and brought to room temperature. It makes almost two different salads for the same time to prep. Lentils can be kept safely under refrigeration for five days.
Once a rarity, French green lentils are getting easier to find and come under the name of French (green) lentils or Du Puy, which refer to the French region Puy de Dome where the authentic French lentils are supposed to have originated. I also give a quick version of this recipe at the end that sacrifices some of the flavors for a shorter process that is quite remarkable, especially if you intend to serve this salad warm as an accompaniment to a main course or mixed with fresh grape tomatoes, which makes a very healthy fare. Lentils along with beans are rich in dietary fiber and have been promoted as an important part of a balanced diet (half a cup of cooked lentils alone provides most of your daily amount of folacin and lentils are rich in iron and magnesium).
French lentils: 1 ½ cups
Vegetable broth: 4 cups
Carrots: 1 fresh bunch (5-6 count medium size), cut ¼ x ¼ x ¼
Garlic: 3 cloves (to taste…)
Red onion: 1 minced brunoise
Parsley: chopped (can use some fronds from fresh carrots too)
Bay leaves: 3
Thyme: de-stemmed, 1 tablespoon (reserve for end of cooking)
Medium shallot: 1 sliced fine
Honey: up to 1 tablespoon
Coarse ground black pepper: to taste
Salt: if needed, and only after lentils are cooked
3 Tablespoons Walnut or Hazelnut oil—olive oil as substitute
2 to 3 Tablespoons Sherry Vinegar/ Champagne vinegar
Sauté red onion till soft and translucent in pan large enough to hold lentils and broth.
Add garlic. A bit after adding the garlic, add the broth, the spices, the dried herbs, and then lentils. Let this all cook slowly till tender (45 minutes/ 1 hour). When ready add fresh thyme.
In the meantime, wash the carrots. Slice them on the bias ¼ inch, spread in a pan and merely cover with some veggie stock or water. When halfway cooked, drizzle some honey over carrots and continue to cook until they are tender but still firm. Put carrots aside.
Drain lentils and pour liquid from cooking into hot pan used to cook carrots.
Reduce heat until paste forms.
Deglaze with Sherry vinegar and set aside
In pan, mix together carrots, lentils, and thinly sliced shallots.
Whisk oil with paste and pour over lentil mixture. Let cool and adjust taste.
Eat cold or slightly warm.
You may serve lentils salads in a bowl with some fresh thyme on top, or cupped into green leaves for presentation.
Lightly sauté garlic, add onions and cook until translucent.
Add sliced carrots on the bias,
Add lentils, broth, dried herbs, and spices
Cook for 45 minutes or until tender.
Add shallots and vinegar—cook a little bit further until shallots are full cooked. Add liquid if needed. Add fresh thyme.
Adjust taste, olive oil, pepper
Serve slightly warm or cold.
Jean-Mark Sens grew up in France and Belgium and has been living in the Southern United States of America for the past 25 years, except for a short stint in the deep East of Maine, which brought him back to New Orleans. He has taught culinary arts at the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute, Eastern Maine Community College and more recently for Mississippi University for Women on the Gulf Coast, and also works with the Goldring Centre for Culinary Medicine in New Orleans. He has published a collection of poetry, Appetite, with Red Hen Press. The present recipes are part of Leafy Greens and Sundry Things, a book on the arts and technique of composing salads in need of a publisher.