Yesterday as I thought about what dinner might bring, I kept going back to some salmon fillets I had squirreled away in the freezer. The weather had warmed up — no snow except on the Peak — and grilling was back online. Note sun on the lentils….
There was also a pound of fat asparagus waiting for its dip in the olive oil bath before grilling (contrary to popular opinion thicker asparagus has more taste than the skinny variety), but as good as all that sounded, I thought there was something missing. A bed for the protein to rest in, so to speak. We were hungry, for goodness sake. We needed something that would make for another night’s meal all by itself or for a couple of lunches, but that would cushion the blow of the salmon on the plate.
A quick perusal of the grain cabinet allowed that a big bag of French Le Puy lentils was still to be used. Lentils are often my go to; you’re right! A peek into the fridge showed parsley, sweet peppers, zucchini, red onion, fennel, and leeks. I might not ever be happier than when there are both fennel AND leeks in my refrigerator. Good things were definitely to come. One sad, lone sweet potato sat right next to the food processor for no good reason that I knew. And instead of soup (and maybe soup has been up here way too much for you if not for me), there would be a bright, perky lentil salad full of all of spring’s joy and promise. A mix of cooked and fresh vegetables gives this dish a sense of rounded savory and earthy goodness along with the crunch and color needed for interest and happy teeth. The red wine vinegar calls you back for more. (Invest in a good quality vinegar like Fini.)
PUY LENTIL AND SWEET POTATO SALAD WITH MUSTARD AND THYME
6 generous servings
This recipe calls for a cooked small sweet potato. 3-4 minutes on full power in the microwave will do the trick. (Don’t forget to poke the potato several times with a small knife before microwaving.)
- 2 cups green (Puy, if possible) lentils (can sub with brown lentils as needed), well rinsed–certified Gluten-Free, if needed
- Bay leaf
- Olive oil
- 2 small leeks, sliced thinly (white and light green parts only)
- 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and sliced thinly
- Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, crushed red pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 3 cloves garlic, minced, divided
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 2 tablespoons minced red onion
- 1/2 cup each chopped red and yellow or orange sweet bell peppers
- Handful of chopped fresh parsley plus a bit extra for garnish
- 1 small baked or microwaved sweet potato, cooled, peeled, and small diced
- 1/3 cup each diced zucchini and carrot
- 1/4 cup each good-quality red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or to taste
- 2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard, certified Gluten-Free, if needed
- 1/2 lemon, optional
Bring 4 quarts of salted and peppered water along with the bay leaf to boil in a 6-quart pot and add rinsed lentils. Boil for about 15 minutes or until lentils are cooked al dente–just done, but not mushy. Drain, return to pot, and while still warm drizzle with a tablespoon or so of oil, stirring. Set aside.
In the meantime, in a large, deep skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium flame and add the leeks and fennel. Season with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper, an 1/8 teaspoon of crushed red pepper, and the thyme. Sauté, stirring often, until tender — about 10 minutes. Add 1/2 of the garlic along with the wine and cook another couple of minutes until the wine is reduced a bit.
Pour the cooked lentils from the pot into the skillet with the vegetables and stir in the rest of the garlic, red onion, bell peppers, parsley, sweet potato, zucchini, and carrot. Mix well. Season with another 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and stir again. Taste and adjust for seasonings.
Drizzle lentil mixture with the red wine vinegar and the 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil; stir well. Stir in the mustard. Taste and adjust again for seasonings, including oil, vinegar, and mustard. A bit more crushed red pepper might be needed if you like things a bit on the hot side. Squeeze lemon over all, if desired.
Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold garnished with parsley. If serving cold, you may need to stir the salad and add a little more oil and or vinegar to moisten it.
Other add-ins: Chopped marinated artichoke hearts, celery, scallions, cooked and chopped eggplant, arugula, cannellini or other cooked beans such as chickpeas, capers, cooked chopped green beans or asparagus, fresh spinach, etc. If you’re bored with the salad in a day or two, stir in a chopped fresh tomato and/or avocado, too. (The salad won’t keep overnight with those ingredients.)
Cook’s Note: For vegetarians or omnivores, add 1/4 cup chopped cheese of some sort; I like Parmigiano-Reggiano or feta for these sorts of salads. For omnivores, a bit of minced ham or chopped, cooked sausage–say 1/4 cup– stirred in and cooked along with the fennel and leeks would be perfect. Chunks of olive-oil packed tuna added at the end are also awesome.
PRINTABLE RECIPE HERE: LENTIL AND SWEET POTATO SALAD
Can’t find Le Puy lentils in the store? Order from amazon.
If you liked this, you might like my
Sing a new song; make a new salad,