I must admit, I’ve never been a huge lentil fan. That being said, I look at my recipe demos as a great opportunity to change my mind about different foods. When I saw this recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, it addressed some of the issues that I have with lentils – mainly the skins popping open and the mushy-ness of it all – and I had to try it.
Cook’s Illustrated recommends a two-step process to cooking perfect lentils – you brine them first and then bake them in the oven. I must say, these were so good that lentils may have found their newest fan! I soaked them for an hour in a sea salt and water brine, and then covered them and left them in the fridge until the next morning (you can leave the brined lentils in the fridge for a couple of days before baking). When I baked them, I used a mix of 50/50 water to broth, which I made using Rapunzel vegan vegetable bouillon – you can alternately use low-sodium chicken broth if it doesn’t matter if the dish is vegetarian or not. I wouldn’t recommend using one of the liquid vegetable broths that we carry at the Co-op, as both Pacific and Imagine use ingredients that I don’t feel would meld very well with the rest of the recipe.
After I let the lentils cool (you can serve the salad hot or at room temperature) I mixed together the dressing and voila – delicious lentil salad! We’re lucky enough to have a hazelnut orchard in our county, so I garnished the salad with Holmquist Hazelnut Orchards toasted hazelnuts (in bulk) and with shredded Benning goat Gouda.
I must tell you that this is already one of the top five most popular recipes I have ever sampled for customers – the salad is very flavorful with a tangy finish and garnered numerous enthusiastic responses from tasters!
Lentil Salad with Hazelnuts and Goat Gouda
Serves 4 – 6
- 1 c French green lentils, picked over and rinsed
- Sea salt and pepper
- 6 c water
- 2 c low-sodium broth—chicken or veggie*
- 5 garlic cloves, lightly crushed and peeled
- 1 bay leaf
- 5 T extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 T red wine vinegar
- 2 t Dijon mustard
- 1/4 c chopped curly parsley
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 2 oz crumbled or shredded hard goat cheese, like Gouda (about 3/4 c)
- 1/3 c coarsely chopped toasted hazelnuts
* for a vegetarian version, I recommend using Rapunzel vegan vegetable bouillon—boil 3 cups of water and add one bouillon cube and boil until it dissolves. Measure out 2 c to use in the recipe (you should only have a small amount left over). I don’t recommend using the pre-made vegetable broth from Imagine or Pacific Foods for this recipe.
- Place lentils and 1 t salt in a bowl. Cover with 4 cups warm water (about 110°F) and soak for 1 hour. Drain well (drained lentils can be covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days before cooking). If you are using bouillon instead of chicken broth, you can prepare it at this point as it will also keep in the fridge for a couple of days.
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325°F.
- Place drained lentils, 2 c water, broth, garlic, bay leaf, and 1/2 t sea salt (reduce salt if using bouillon cube broth) in a medium oven-proof saucepan or baking dish. Cover and bake until lentils are tender but remain intact, 40-60 minutes.
- Meanwhile, whisk oil, vinegar, and mustard together in a large bowl.
- Drain lentils well using a colander with small holes; remove and discard garlic and bay leaf. Refrigerate for about a half hour if serving at room temperature.
- Add drained lentils, parsley, and shallot to dressing and toss to combine.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Transfer to serving dish and sprinkle with goat cheese and hazelnuts.
Notes from Cook’s Illustrated:
“Why this recipe works: The most important step in making a lentil salad is perfecting the cooking of the lentils so they maintain their shape and firm-tender bite. There turns out to be two key steps. The first is to brine the lentils in warm salt water. With brining, the lentil’s skin softens, which leads to fewer blowouts. The second step is to cook the lentils in the oven, which heats them gently and uniformly. Once we had perfectly cooked lentils, all we had left to do was to pair the earthy beans with a tart vinaigrette and boldly flavored mix-ins.
French green lentils, or Lentilles du Puy, are our preferred choice for this recipe, but it works with any type of lentil except red or yellow. Brining helps keep the lentils intact, but if you don’t have time, they’ll still taste good. The salad can be served warm or at room temperature.”