The sun is finally out after a series of rainy days. It feels like one of those childhood summer days, long and lazy, full of possibility. I am not going to work or do anything productive. My only plan is a bbq/birthday party with some of my most beloved friends. Maybe I’ll go to yoga. Or maybe not. We’ll see. I’ve been exploring the not doing lately, practicing what it means to live in a space of breath, open and not trying. Morning walks to my garden, listening to birds, beginning to recognize neighbors on morning walks, without or without dogs, children, with or without eye contact, smiles. It feels good. Easy. Ease.
The downside of this new approach to life has been a vast reduction in productivity. I don’t get very much done. But I think that’s okay. I am not in a race. This fact is underlined by the absence of panting, a form of breath that used to be my norm. Now, at worst, I sometimes find myself holding my breath. Old habits. They take a long time to die, particularly when you’re trying to replace them kindly. Again, ease. That’s my summer theme. Which translates well to food, if not to prolific blogging.
I first made this salad a few years ago, when it appeared in Fine Cooking Magazine. (http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/lentil-salad-sherry-vinaigrette.aspx) And it’s since become a staple, not only for home but also for parties. Because, in addition to the facts that this salad is easy, make ahead, affordable, and safe for almost all categories of food intolerances, it’s absolutely delicious. Which, at the end of the day, is the scale tipper.
My version hews pretty tight to the original but for a few changes. First, I don’t use scallions. I’m sure they’re wonderful if you like scallions. But I really don’t. So I just leave them out. Second, I always use sherry vinegar. For me it is the essential ingredient that makes this salad. But I think it would be good enough with white wine vinegar. Just maybe not amazing. Finally, instead of layering all the various components of the vinaigrette into the salad separately, I whisk them together while the lentils are cooking then fold the dressing into the warm, drained lentils. I don’t detect any difference in flavor and I find this method, which I arrived at after many, many times of following the original instructions, much less fussy.
In addition to being delicious on its own, this salad is also good as a topping for crackers (the caviar of lentils), a bed for grilled meats or roasted vegetables, and a topping for salads. I especially love it over arugula topped with a poached egg, a quick summer dinner. So, while the recipe that follows serves 6-8 in a single meal, if you’re cooking for more than 2, you may want to double up to ensure enough for multiple incarnations.
2-1/4 c. French green lentils (lentils du Puy)
1/4 c. sherry vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
6 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 t minced garlic
1. Rinse the lentils and put them in a large saucepan with two quarts of cold, filtered water and two teaspoons of salt. Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat, cover partially, and simmer for about 25 minutes, until the lentils are tender but still intact. Drain, rinse with cold water, and transfer to a large bowl.
2. Whisk the oil, vinegar, 1 teaspoon of salt, a few grindings of pepper, and garlic until combined. Pour the dressing over the warm lentils and stir gently to combine, making sure not to mash the lentils. Let stand at room temperature for at least an hour and up to three hours. Taste for seasoning and serve.