Fall seems to open up a whole new bounty of foods and dishes to prepare. Root vegetables are particularly attractive (winter squashes, potatoes, etc.), as are stews and bean dishes. And now that the summer heat has died down, I don’t mind having my oven on for hours on end (this means more baking and roasting!).
But it didn’t quite feel right to transition directly to stews and roasts. I felt as if I needed some kind of segue. This lentil salad seemed particularly appropriate as an early-Fall dish because the shallot and Dijon mustard vinaigrette and little rounds of tomato keep this dish light and flavorful.
I prepared this as a vegetarian dish (vegan, actually), but you can cook some diced bacon to render the fat in the the pot first or add some cubed chicken or pork to the dish after mixing it together.
As a side note. I soaked these lentils before making the dish, but lentils cook well without soaking. Expect the cooking time to increase by 10-20 minutes.
1 lb lentils (French green lentils are preferred)
1 pint small tomatoes (cherry or grape tomatoes), cut into disks
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
1 onion, minced
vegetable or chicken stock/broth, or water
1 large bay leaf
several springs of thyme (6-8 sprigs)
salt and pepper
- Soak lentils overnight (or about 5 hours) in water. Make sure the water covers the dry lentils by about two inches as the lentils will expand, absorbing liquid.
1. Heat a large pot over medium heat, then add the oil or butter. To this, add the minced onion and cook until translucent (5-8 minutes). Do not let the onion brown.
2. Drain the lentils and add them to the pot with the bay leaf and the thyme. Add enough liquid (vegetable or chicken stock, or water) to cover the beans by about an inch.
3. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Add liquid as necessary to keep the beans covered. Taste the lentils after about 10 minutes. Depending on the age and quality of the lentils, they may finish cooking anywhere between 10-20 minutes. The lentils should hold their shape, but yield when eaten. There should not be a significant chew to them. Add salt and pepper to taste at the end of the cooking cycle.
4. Drain and allow to cool to room temperature.
5. Add the vinaigrette (see below for recipe) and tomatoes. Mix well. (I used about 3/4 of the pint of tomatoes.) Serve chilled or at room temperature.
6 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 large shallot, minced
fresh chives, about 2 tablespoons, minced
Whisk everything together until combined.