Lentil salad is one of the first things I learned over 30 years ago, and I still do it today …
Part of the reason is that it reminds me of my best friend’s mother, Rosa, who was one of my first cooking heroes. She had a wooden recipe box on her kitchen counter filled with clippings by Craig Claiborne from the New York Times, and was the only person I knew who went on special trips to find special ingredients and never quite caught up with the local one Supermarket was satisfied, in which the rest was bought by us. No matter when I went into her kitchen, it smelled amazing and best for two teenagers who were always starving (Rosa’s daughter Jeni and I) the fridge was always full of leftovers. We knew we met Pay Dirt when those leftovers were their shepherd cake or their lentil salad.
The other reason I still make their lenses is because they are so simple. Simple enough for an ambitious teenager and an easy starting point for a busy person who just wants to make sure something healthy is on the dining table, for themselves or their family. The recipe that Rosa gave me (which I later copied in my own handwriting and pasted into my spiral-bound “recipe book” – how young I was and how old I am) called for the lentils to be cooked in beef broth and the salad to be tossed with Tarragon vinegar. It would be a long time before I became confident enough to have the thought. Maybe I can use another vinegar besides tarragon? And another broth next to beef? And these days the lentils are tossed with whatever vinegar I have in the pantry: white balsamic or sherry or red wine or white wine, and cooked in whatever liquid I have on hand. The other big difference? I use it as a main course rather than a side dish. All I have to do is add a salmon flake, a boiled sausage or a seven-minute egg and I have the best type of dinner: healthy, light, sentimental.
Warm lentil salad
Makes 4 sides or 3 main lines
1 1/2 cups of brown lentils
2 1/2 – 3 cups of liquid (vegetable broth, chicken broth, beef broth, water, or any combination thereof) or enough to cover lentils about an inch
1 bunch of spring onions (white and light green parts), chopped
3 tablespoons of chopped paprika, any color, I like red (or more to taste)
Leaves of 4 sprigs of fresh thyme (or a generous handful of finely chopped parsley)
1 1/2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard
a little less than 1/4 cup of vinegar (I used white balsamic vinegar, but you can use tarragon, red wine, regular balsamic vinegar)
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
In a medium saucepan, cook the lentils in a broth-water combination, then reduce the heat and simmer for 12-15 minutes. While the lentils are cooking, make your dressing by whisking together mustard, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. If lentils are tender but retain their shape (try a few to determine tenderness), drain them in a colander. Throw the lentils warm with the spring onions, pepper, thyme and vinaigrette.
Protein add-ins: Two limbs of cooked, crumbled sweet Italian sausage or a 3/4 pound salmon fillet (baked 12-15 minutes at 400 ° F), peeled; Fried eggs or 7-minute eggs drizzled with chili oil.
PS Start with flavorful pieces of chicken and five things that have to do with a chicken chop.