For this earthy lentil salad, we first needed to ensure that the lentils would stay intact throughout cooking. Lentilles du Puy were the perfect choice, since they are small and firm and hold their shape better than standard green or brown lentils. A salt-soak softened their skins, leading to fewer blowouts. Cooking the lentils in the oven heated them gently and uniformly, and we easily boosted their flavor by simply adding some crushed cloves of garlic and a bay leaf to the pot.
With our lentils perfectly cooked, we turned to flavorings. A simple vinaigrette worked perfectly to balance their flavor. We added in heart spinach while Parmesan and walnuts brought some textural variety to the salad.
Lentilles du Puy, also called French green lentils, are our first choice for this recipe, but brown, black, or regular green lentils are fine, too (note that cooking times will vary depending on the type used). Salt-soaking helps keep the lentils intact, but if you don't have time, they'll still taste good. You need a medium ovensafe saucepan for this recipe.
Recipe: Lentil salad with spinach, walnuts and Parmesan
Serves 4 to 6
- 1 teaspoon table salt for brining
- 1 cup dried lentilles du Puy, picked over and rinsed
- 5 garlic cloves, lightly crushed and peeled
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ teaspoon table salt
- 4 ounces (4 cups) baby spinach
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 1 large shallot, minced
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
- ¼ cup walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped coarse
1. Dissolve 1 teaspoon salt in 1 quart warm water (about 110 degrees) in bowl. Add lentils and soak at room temperature for 1 hour. Drain well.
2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees.. Combine lentils, 4 cups water, garlic, bay leaf, and salt in medium ovensafe saucepan. Cover; transfer saucepan to oven; and cook until lentils are tender but remain intact, 40 minutes to 1 hour.
3. Meanwhile, place spinach and 2 tablespoons water in bowl. Cover and microwave until spinach is wilted and volume is reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Remove bowl from microwave and keep covered for 1 minute. Transfer spinach to collanger and press gently to release liquid. Transfer spinach to cutting board and chop coarse. Return to colander and press again.
4. Drain lentils well, discarding garlic and bay leaf. In a large bowl, whisk oil and vinegar together. Add shallot, lentils, and spinach toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with Parmesan and walnuts. Serve warm or at room temperature.
If you like this recipe as much as we do, check out "The Complete Salad Cookbook" by America's Test Kitchen.