My first memory of lentils is on New Years Day when I was about 6 and my Uncle Ken brought over a huge pot full of them over to our house. He told me that the number of lentils that I ate on the 1st of the year was the amount of money I would make that year. I think I made it through about 2 spoonfuls before giving up. I think lentils are one of those acquired tastes that you learn to like as you grow older (like my relationship with mushrooms). I never really loved lentils until the past few years and now I love them.
Lentils tend to be pretty bland, but this recipe is filled with flavor- the nuttiness of the walnuts paired with the parmesan will knock your socks off. We ate this dish as a side to fish the first night and I’ve been eating it as my lunch for the best few days. I would make this dish over and over again. Next time I may add some dried cherries to try something different.
Lentil Salad with Spinach, Walnuts and Parmesan Cheese
Serves 4 to 6
- 1 cup green lentils, picked over and rinsed
- salt and pepper
- 6 1/2 cups water
- 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 5 garlic cloves, lightly crushed and peeled
- 1 bay leaf
- 12 ounces spinach
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 1 1/2 ounces coarsely grated Parmesan cheese + more for garnish
- Place lentils and 1 teaspoon salt in a bowl. Cover with 4 cups warm water (about 110 degrees) and soak for 1 hour. Drain well. (Drained lentils can be refrigerated for up to 2 days before cooking).
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Place drained lentils, 2 cups water, broth, garlic, bay leaf and 1/2 teaspoon salt in medium saucepan (we used a Le Creuset). Cover and bake until lentils are tender but remain intact, 40 to 60 minutes.
- While lentils are cooking, place 12 ounces of spinach and 1/2 cup water in bowl. Cover and microwave until spinach is wilted and volume is halved, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove bowl from microwave and keep covered for 1 minute. Transfer spinach to colander; gently press to release liquid. Transfer spinach to cutting board and roughly chop. Return to colander and press again. Set aside.
- Whisk oil and vinegar together in a large bowl. Set aside.
- Drain lentils well; remove and discard the garlic and bay leaf. Add drained lentils, spinach, walnuts, shallot and Parmesan cheese to oil and vinegar dressing and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to serving dish and top with slices of Parmesan cheese (I used a vegetable peeler to get the larger slices).
Recipe adapted from the September/October 2011 issue of Cook’s Illustrated