Friday, August 26, 2011

French Lentil Salad with Artichokes, Baby Heirlooms and Fennel

This hearty salad stands on it's own as a full meal to fill you up without the guilt. If you can't find french lentils, substitute with green or brown varieties, as they will stay slightly firmer than the yellow/red kind that become mushy. Serve hot or at room temperature and make extra for lunch the next day. Overnight the lentils suck up all the great flavors and the salad is just as good if not better.

Nutty french lentils tossed with caramelized fennel, onions, artichokes, bright baby heirloom tomatoes, garlic chips and fresh herbs. Seasoned simply with salt, pepper and balsamic, you don't need anything else to approve the flavor with, it's already there.

French Lentil Salad
1 1/2 cup dried french lentils
1 bay leaf
4 tbl extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 cup medium diced white onion
1 large fennel bulb, cored, medium dice
1 celery stalk
salt and pepper
1 tbl fresh thyme leaves
2 tbl balsamic vinegar
juice from one lemon, divided
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 tbl fresh parsley, divided
4oz artichoke hearts in oil, drained, roughly chopped
1 cup halved baby heirloom tomatoes
2 scallions, roughly chopped

Combine the lentils and bay leaf in a pot and fill with water, covering the beans by at least three inches. Do not salt until the lentils are done cooking, or they will get very tough!
Simmer for about 20-25 minutes until tender then drain and discard the bay leaf.
While the lentils are cooking, saute the onion, fennel, celery, salt and pepper in a large pan with 2 tbl of oil over medium-high heat for 15 minutes until the fennel starts to soften and all the vegetables start to brown and caramelize. Add the thyme leaves and deglaze the bottom of the pan with vinegar. Add juice from 1/2 a lemon, garlic, 2 tbl parsley and artichokes and cook 7 minutes more. Turn off the heat and toss in the remaining parsley, 2 tbl of oil, tomatoes, juice of 1/2 lemon and scallions. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if preferable.

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