a year in food and life

Lentil salad with caramelized balsamic vinaigrette March 13, 2007

Filed under: food,salads — superspark @ 9:26 pm


I must admit I’m a little sad to no longer be a daily blogger. I liked the ritual of writing each morning, of editing the photos and dreaming of tomorrow’s post. But when you leave the house at 6:15 am, there’s not a lot of time to wax poetic about last night’s dinner. Nor is there much time to make that dinner, for the most part, and although reading about the Veggie Delite sub I had for lunch today would no doubt be a scintillating experience, I’m afraid I’ll have to transform myself into that class of bloggers who go for quality above quantity.

And I wish that this lentil salad had been as high quality as its description in Didi Emmons’ Vegetarian Planet had suggested it would be. Perhaps it was my lack of French lentils (or lentilles du Puy). The old Superspark would have run out to the store to buy some (or at least have considered it); the new busy working woman Superspark threw together whatever lentils we had in the cupboard- red, brown, whatever!- to whip up this dish. It wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t that exciting…there’s something about lentils that makes it so that unless you get them just right, they’re kind of mushy and blah. After taking this picture and digging into them (with Dylan commenting, “Wow, that’s a lot of brown and green.”), we quickly retrieved the feta from the fridge and the pepper grinder, looking for a little more oomph.

On the plus side, we felt incredibly virtuous for eating such a healthy meal. So much so that we decided to follow it with Dylan’s new recipe for gelato which, no joke, involves only milk (not cream), cornstarch, a pinch of salt, and a minimal amount of sugar. Yowza! Now that’s a dish to get excited about! I’m encouraging him to return to blogging to share this fabulous new recipe with everyone…lentils are fine, gelato is much better.

Lentil Salad with Caramelized Balsamic Vinaigrette (serves 4-6)

2 cups French lentils (or brown lentils; or any other lentils you happen to have)
5 cups water
1/4 cup currants
5 tbsp caramelized balsamic vinaigrette (see recipe below)
1 large ripe round tomato or 3 plum tomatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 tbsp minced shallots
1/4 cup chopped walnuts, lightly toasted
1/2 tsp salt
fresh ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup basil leaves, sliced thin (optional)

1. Put the lentils in a saucepan, and cover them with the water. Bring the water to a boil, then turn down the heat. Simmer the lentils for 20 minutes, uncovered, adding more water if necessary to prevent scorching. When the lentils are tender but slightly chewy, add the currants, and simmer 2 minutes more.

2. Drain the lentil/currant mixture well, and transfer to a bowl. While the mixture is still hot, add the caramelized balsamic vinaigrette. Stir well with a spoon.

3. Add the tomato pieces, shallots, walnuts, salt, and pepper to the lentil mixture. Stir well. Serve the salad warm, or chill it. Sprinkle on the basil leaves just before serving. Serve on its own or atop a bed of greens, such as spinach. Will keep for 2 days, covered, in the fridge.

Caramelized balsamic vinaigrette (makes 1 3/4 cups)
1 cup sugar
6 tbsp water
5 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves
1 tsp salt
fresh ground black pepper to taste

1. Combine the sugar and 4 tbsp of water in a heavy saucepan that can hold at least 2 qts of liquid. Bring the mixture to a boil, and continue to boil it until it turns a light golden color. Once it turns this color, immediately take the pan off the heat. While beating it with a whisk, slowly pour in the balsamic vinegar, keeping your body and face as far from the pot as possible in case the caramel sputters. If you see little sugar balls in the syrip, some of the sugar has crystallized; if this happens, put the pan back on the heat and stir until the sugar balls dissolve (remove any that don’t).

2. Off the heat, whisking constantly, slowly add the olive oil, in a stream the width of a pencil. Then whisk in the remaining 2 tbsp water. (It may appear incompletely emulsified at first, but by the time you’re done adding all of the water, the dressing should be emulsified. Add the garlic, pepper, and salt.

3. The vinegar is now ready to use. If you need to store it, chill it in a covered contained until you need it, then heat it slowly in a pan over low heat until it thins. Will keep in the fridge for at least 2 weeks. (Or try it chilled over goat cheese, apples, or pear slices.)


3 Responses to “Lentil salad with caramelized balsamic vinaigrette”

  1. […] my last cringe-inducing attempt at lentils, I’d somehow decided that the problem was the lentil varieties I’d been using; maybe if I tried […]

  2. am Says:

    You have to use the French lentils–that’s where the character for this dish comes from. The lentils and the currents are the same size, I chop the walnuts to about that size as well. Also, I cut grape tomatoes instead of larger tomatoes. This makes for a non-mushy salad and it is always a big hit. I think it would be awful with regular lentils.

  3. superspark Says:

    Thanks for the tip- should I ever dare to try this dish again, I will definitely make sure to use the lentils de Puy!

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