I love this subtle lentil recipe! It’s not too spicy, but has just enough interesting spices and color to make a perfect accompaniment to a spicier Indian dish (like the cauliflower, potato & pea dish, in the post above). Of course, you can serve this salad with other things, as well; it’s wonderful with a dollop of chutney or a dish of salted, garlicky yogurt and a piece of pita bread, for example.
This recipe is a variation of a salad in Annie Somerville’s Fields of Greens. If you make this salad ahead of time (which is always a good idea with legumes—the flavors deepen and meld together), don’t add the cilantro until just before serving. (Or just leave the cilantro out entirely. When I thawed it out to serve with the cauliflower, I didn’t have any—and the dish is still wonderful!) Anyway, when you are ready to serve the salad, warm it up a bit, then taste it. It might need more white wine vinegar and salt before serving—the lentils will soak up the seasonings as they sit, and it might need more sparkle.
1 ½ cups French green lentils
1 bay leaf
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed or minced
1 medium red or yellow onion, diced
white wine vinegar
4 large carrots, peeled and diced
zest and juice from a lemon
1 ½ teaspoons cumin seed, toasted and ground
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup coarsely chopped cilantro (optional)
1. Rinse the lentils and place them in a medium-sized saucepan; cover generously with cold water and add the bay leaf and garlic. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Make sure not to undercook them (you should be able to squish them between your tongue and the roof of your mouth) but don’t let them turn into mush.
2. Meanwhile, bring another pot of water to a boil. Drop the diced onion in for about 30 seconds, then scoop out with a strainer and toss the onions with a generous splash of white wine vinegar. Add a little salt to the water and drop the carrots in for 4 or 5 minutes, until they are just tender-crisp, then drain and toss in with the onions.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, zest, 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar, spices, salt, cayenne, and black pepper.
4. Drain the lentils when tender; remove the bay leaf and immediately toss them into a large bowl with the vegetables and the dressing mixture. The lemon flavor will be strong at first, but the lentils will absorb it. Add more salt and vinegar to taste—make sure the flavors are nice and sparkling! If using, toss in the cilantro just before serving.