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Savory Lentil Salad (with a side of dinner on the patio)


Don’t you wish that more dinners looked like this?  I certainly do!  And summer is the perfect time to institute the no-cook, bits-and-pieces, smorgasbord-dinner-on-the-patio, evening!

The heart of the meal is the Lentil Salad (recipe to follow).  Every time I have lentils I end up asking myself why I don’t eat them more often?

Moving on…starting at the top in the center are some Lucques olives – they are a bright fresh tasting and meaty olive from France that needs nothing more than to be popped in your mouth and savored as-is.  Almost out of the picture, we have Brillat-Savarin cheese which can only be described as the most wonderful thing I’ve put in my mouth – creamy, dense and buttery and sweet as all get-out!  Next some crusty bread, sliced nectarines, lentil salad, Bellweather Carmody – a semi-firm young Jersey cow’s milk cheese from Sonoma County, salty-date and almond raincoast crisps (my favorite new cracker), sheep’s milk Brebiou cheese from France, and last but not least some dry-cured Chianti salami!  This is probably enough for at least 4 people…but Woody and I managed to polish it off just fine!  Onto the lentil salad…

Savory Lentil Salad (recipe courtesy…my Dad)

Lentils
2 cups water
1 cup white wine
1 cup chicken broth
1 tsp. salt
1 bouquet garni
1 medium carrot
celery leaves
1 small onion
6 cloves
1 cup lentils

Dressing
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
4 tbsp. olive oil (or walnut oil)
½ tsp. Dijon mustard
Salt & pepper to taste

Garnish
2 scallions, sliced
¼ cup chopped walnuts
¼ cup chopped parsley
6-8 sun-dried tomatoes

Start off by measuring your lentils and then putting them in a strainer or colander to rinse them under cold water.  This is an important step because a) it helps rinse off any remaining dirt from the packaging plant and b) sometimes small rocks or stones make it into the bag of lentils…they look very similar…and no one likes to bite down on a small rock!

Stud the onion with the cloves.  Combine all ingredients except the lentils in a pan and bring to a boil.  Add the rinsed lentils and return to boil for 5 minutes.  Cover, reduce heat and cook for 10-15 minutes until lentils are cooked but still crisp.  Drain, remove the vegetables from the cooking liquid.  I cut the carrot up to add a little color to the finished salad…but otherwise, they can just be discarded.

Blend the dressing ingredients – the walnut oil is preferable as it enhances the nutty flavor of the lentils, but olive oil will work just fine – and then pour the dressing over the warm lentils.  We love this recipe and have made it word for word many a time…but we changed it up a bit.  First I kept one of the carrots from the cooking liquid and cut it into a small dice and added it back to the lentils.  We didn’t have any sun-dried tomatoes on hand, so we skipped them entirely…and Woody is not a fan of the walnuts, so we left those out as well.  We added in the scallions and a bunch of parsley.

It’s important to pour the dressing over the lentils while they are still warm, and then you’ll want to let the whole thing sit for a bit, in the fridge or on the counter to let all of the flavors come together.  Before serving, make sure you taste it again, most likely you’ll need a little bit more vinegar…they’ll soak it up and mellow out.  It’s great as a light salad served over a few greens or a slice or two of some crusty bread and sliced tomatoes.

I’m working on having more cold salads to bring for lunch at work – do you have any favorites that work well for you?  Are you a bring-your-lunch-from-home or a run-out-and-get-a-quick-bite person?

Happy 4th!  Enjoy the weekend…it’s a hot one!

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