Today´s recipe for the French Fridays with Dorie group is „French Lentils: a basic recipe“. Lentils are versatile, nutritious, and very tasty, and there are many different ways to serve them. Unlike dried beans they do not need soaking and they cook relativley quickly. Before I started making this „basic recipe“ for lentils, I decided to use Dorie´s recipe as a basis for a fresh, late summer salad, a Lentil Salad with fresh Figs, Goat´s Cheese, Rocket and Honey.
Of the widely available types of lentil, Dorie´s recipe calls for „Puy Lentils“ or „lentilles vertes de Puy“, a small slate-green lentil with a delicate blue marbling. Puy lentils are considered by many to be the best lentil because of their distinctive earthy flavor and incomparable nutty texture and the fact they hold their shape during cooking. They are the only lentil to be identified by area of cultivation (Appellation d'Origine Protégée) – grown in Puy-en-Velay, France. Puy lentils can be served hot or cold as a salad starter or as an accompaniment to poultry, meat or fish dishes, or can be used in soups or casseroles.
The first step in this recipe is the cooking of the lentils. Before you get started, give them a good wash, to get rid of any starchy dust. To infuse these lovely jewels with a lot of flavor, the lentils need to be cooked twice, once only briefly in water, the second time with garlic, onion, carrot, celery stalk, a clove and a bay leaf – all in a homemade chicken broth. The Puy lentils only needed to cook for 25 minutes and ended up having a lovely texture and holding their shape really well, even after mixing them carefully with the optional vinaigrette, the second step for this recipe.
The vinaigrette consisted of Dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, walnut oil (which goes so well with earthy lentils), extra-virgin olive oil, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and a bit of local runny honey. Once the lentils are cooked and drained and while still warm, it is also the right time to add the rather well-seasoned dressing – your lentils will soak up the flavors beautifully. Now let the dressed lentils sit for a while, then toss with fresh rocket and finish with quartered figs, goats´cheese and a drizzle of honey.
This is a good recipe to be using that lovely local, runny honey that you bought at the farmers´ market - once a bit in the vinaigrette, then to drizzle a bit over the figs and the goat´s cheese to finish the salad. And as far as the goat´s cheese is concerned, goat's cheese is, of course, a very varied product. For this recipe, try to get a fresh, unpasteurised cheese that is light and soft, which tastes lovely tossed together with the rocket. Or, if you prefer, get a goat´s cheese that crumbles like feta.
Overall,we absolutely adored the Lentil Salad with fresh Figs, Goat´s Cheese, Rocket and Honey. Dorie´s basic French lentil recipe is a fabulous, flavorful basis for this wonderful salad that combines the earthyness of the Puy lentils, the peppery taste of the rocket, the creaminess of the goat´s cheese, and the sweetness of the lovely fresh figs and honey – absolute delight on a plate – could not ask for more on a late summer´s day.
To see how much the other members of the French Fridays with Dorie group enjoyed this recipe, please go here.
For copyright reasons, we do not publish the recipes from the book. But you can find the recipe for the “French Lentils: a basic recipe“ on pages 367-8 in Dorie Greenspan´s "Around my French Table".