French lentils have to be one of the handful of my very favorite recipes in Around My French Table. And one from which I learned the most. I had never been a fan of lentils. I like beans of most varieties, and love split pea soup – but lentils? Then the revelation of these wonderful small greenish-black lentils that Dorie introduced us to. This, along with Marie Helene’s Apple Cake, Hachis Parmentier, My Go-To Beef Daube, and the Roasted Salmon that is served with lentils are a few recipes that I’ve made several times. There are more, but these are a few of the ones that have really stayed with me.
This is simple enough – the lentils are given a quick pre-boil and rinsed, just to make sure the flavors are clean. Then they are added with a number of vegetables and spices and set to simmer. I used the green tops of a celery root that I was going to roast to go with, carrot, bay leaf, garlic and a clove-studded small onion.
This all gets simmered together along with some vegetable (or other) stock for about a half an hour total. Dorie suggests draining them, and reserving the water if they are going to be refrigerated (for re-heating). This would be a particularly good idea if you were using these for a lentil salad. You may also remove the vegetables, finely chop them and add them back in, or discard. I’ve done both – with good results. You may also add a splash of cognac, and even a bit of chopped shallot. Add depending on how you are using yours.
While the lentils were simmering, I made some roasted vegetables. I had some cherry tomatoes that needed to be used, so I stirred them together with a bit of garlic, honey, olive oil, salt and pepper. Anyone who is familiar with the other cooking group in which I participate (Cottage Cooking Club), might recognize these. And I’ve found that roasted celery root goes well with lentils – so I roasted a few along with some red onions. Other things I like to use are eggplant, multi-colored peppers, carrots, sweet potato and zucchini.
Along with some home-made pesto, this turns into one of my favorite meals. It can be served hot, or room temperature (my typical), and is a perfect desk lunch at work – easily assembled to go, but can sit at your desk until it’s time to enjoy. I had something like this when I was in Texas a couple of years ago, and have been making it ever since. Infinitely variable, based on what’s fresh and available, and quite healthy too.