Lentil Salad with Arugula and Feta (And a Warm Honey Vinaigrette to Make Your Heart Melt)

Just a few things I’d like to say to you.  Firstly, thank you so much for actually trying these recipes.  While I try to take myself seriously as much as possible, I’m always surprised when other people do, so thank you.

Secondly, as you may have surmised sometimes it’s hard for me to know if these recipes are worth your time, because the only palate I have to rely on is my own.  And while I am constantly aiming for improvements in said palate, it’s always comforting when there are others to confirm the deliciousness (or lack thereof) of the food I make.  So when I made this salad for my family, I was doing secret self-high fives when it turned into an “ooh” “yum” “I can’t stop sticking my fork straight in the plate” kind of moment.  I’m especially flattered when these moments come from my sister, whose opinion I value immensely. My dad made roast chicken, and I served this up along with some grilled fennel.

A few notes on the salad. If you’re wondering why I ask you to chop the arugula, it’s because I’d rather the lettuce be reduced to more manageable pieces which will fit onto a fork nicely with the lentils.

The dressing: it’s a big deal for me.  I’ve recently come to the conclusion that warm dressings are to salads what iPhones are to adults: in no way necessary but a whole lot of fun. Please play around with all of the ingredient quantities – I know what I like, but perhaps you like things a touch sweeter or a tad more acidic.  Change accordingly. It might taste bad at one point (mine did) but keep playing around and I guarantee it will turn into something outrageous.

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French Lentils with Ginger, Fennel, and Smoked Salmon

If I tell you my inspiration for making this comes from airplane food, would you hold it against me?  I certainly made it my own by adding ginger and fennel, but the origin of this recipe has to be credited to the wonderful chefs creating food for Air France. I know you will all disagree with me, but I really enjoy airplane food, especially on Air France.  A little baguette, a little wheel of brie cheese, and a pretty decent hot meal are enough to keep me hooked on this airline.

I prefer using French lentils to anything else because they keep their shape well and have a substantial texture and flavor.  The fennel is great because it adds the unique licorice-like, aniseed flavor (the same flavor you would find in anise or star anise), which goes well with both the salmon and the ginger.  However, if you can’t find fennel easily or don’t like it, you can replace it with celery, although you won’t achieve quite the same thing.

One other suggestion is to replace the fennel garnish with thinly sliced scallions – this was actually my original idea but unfortunately fennel was all I could find at the farmer’s market. 

So I’ll keep my post short for today, and thanks again to every one who comments and gives feedback, it helps me out a lot!

Happy Tuesday, eat something delicious.

French Lentils with Ginger, Fennel, and Smoked Salmon – serves 1

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly chopped or ground ginger
1 small fennel bulb
2/3-cup french lentils
1 teaspoon chopped thyme
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
2-3 smoked salmon fillets

1. Prepare the fennel: cut off the fronds and the root. Roughly chop the bulb as you would an onion. Discard all but one of the fronds; cut it on the diagonal into horizontal slices (for garnish).
2. Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium high heat.
3. Add the ginger, and saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the fennel and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
4. Add the lentils, chopped thyme, bay leaf, and enough water to cover the lentils by about 1/2-inch (1.5 cm). Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until lentils are softened, about 20-25 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, cut your salmon slices into small bite-size pieces.
6. Stir the vinegar into the lentils, discard the bay leaf, and ladle into a bowl. Serve topped with salmon and fennel.

>French Lentils w/ Feta and Sundried Tomatoes

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My inspiration for making french lentils comes from a visit I made with my sister to Rose Bakery, which is a restaurant and take-out cafe in the Montmartre area of Paris that features delicious, fresh, and creative dishes.  It’s a small and pretty unique place; I love that as soon as we walked in, we saw a counter of the day’s offerings on our right, and a supply of their fresh produce and various products on our left (see photo).



We were pleasantly surprised by the freshness of all the dishes we tried, and the emphasis placed on fresh, local, and seasonal products.  As I mentioned before, the lentil salad stuck with us the most; the creaminess of the cheese mixed with the salty and chewy flavors of the lentils blended so nicely together.  I’ve tried to recreate that here, and I hope you find it satisfying.  Merci!




French Lentils with Feta and Sundried Tomatoes- Serves 1
Quick note: I used sundried tomatoes that weren’t oil-packed, but only because my supermarket didn’t have the oil-packed version – I think the latter would taste better in this salad.
1/2 cup French lentils, dried
2 cups water
1 clove garlic, peeled
2 sprigs thyme
salt
6 oil-packed sundried tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon chopped basil
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
olive oil
pepper
2 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
1 lemon

1. In a small saucepan, pour in the lentils, water, thyme sprigs, garlic clove, and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 25-30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Drain the lentils in a colander.


2. In a small skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat, then add the sundried tomatoes and 1/2 of the rosemary (if you’re using oil-packed tomatoes, place 1/2 a tablespoon olive oil in the skillet). Cook until the tomatoes are slightly softened, about 5 minutes, then add the lentils and remaining rosemary. Stir everything together, and cook for about 5 minutes longer.


3.  Toss in the basil, season with salt and pepper to taste, and sprinkle with about 2 teaspoons of lemon juice.

4. Pour on a platter, and toss in the feta cheese.

As usual, I would highly recommend eating this with a baguette.
Bon appetit!