Spinach, and Goat Cheese Lentil Salad – this is my version of the satisfying French Lentil Salad, paired with none other than Naan bread and cilantro oil. I had to put my Indian stamp on it. Sorry France!
My Chef instructor mentioned it casually in class one day, that the French use lentils too. Le Puy lentils, the superior kind, according to him. I had seen these little packets of over-priced lentils at Whole Foods before and this revelation in class prompted me to go and buy them to see what was so special about them.
So began my research into this unique lentil. Le Puy lentils are green in color and are named for the region of Auvergne, France where they are cultivated. They differ from usual green/brown lentils because of their ability to retain their shape during and after the cooking process. Hence their popularity in salads. They also cook faster than their counterparts. They are also more chewier in texture and nutty, peppery in flavor because of the volcanic soil they grow in naturally.
I was curious, to say the least, about this lentil’s properties. One, it does not turn mushy how much ever you over cook them. I tried, believe me! Just for the heck it. Each lentil remains separate because of the lack of starch in them. Two, they are surprisingly (to me) wonderful to eat. I kept munching on them when I was making the salad. Three, they are wonderfully versatile, as in you can add all sorts of spices and flavors to them and they absorb it like sponge. As you will see from my recipe, I went a little crazy and had so much fun in adding them.
Note: Buy only Le Puy lentils. There are a lot of wanna-be’s in the market that claim to be the real deal. A good indicator is the price. These lentils are expensive when compared to the regular ones. And well worth it. Make them and you will think so too.
Now this recipe for Spinach, and Goat Cheese Lentil Salad seems like a lot of ingredients but they are all already in your pantry.
Spinach, and Goat Cheese Lentil Salad
- 1 cup (195g) Le Puy (French green lentils) Sabarot French Green Lentils from Le Puy – 500g
- 1 sprig thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 stalks of parsley
- 50g carrot, peeled and finely diced
- 30g red onion, peeled and
- 1 rib celery, finely diced
- 6g salt
- 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 3g sea salt or kosher salt,
plus more as needed
- 1 teaspoon or 5g Dijon mustard
- 1/3 cup (60ml) olive oil
- 50g shallot, peeled and minced
- 3g freshly ground black pepper
- 20g freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 cup (30g) finely chopped
fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 teaspoon or 2g ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon or 1g ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon or 1g cayenne pepper
- ¼ teaspoon or 0.5g ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon or 0.5g freshly
- 1/4 teaspoon or 0.5g ground cinnamon
- 1/2 cup (50g) walnuts or pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
- 1 cup or 30g baby spinach
- 100g crumbled goat cheese
- 1/4 cup or 25g golden raisins
- 12oz grape tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon or 15g cream
- 2 Indian Naan Bread (Store bought or homemade)
1 Recipe Cilantro Oil
For the Lentils
- Rinse the lentils and put them in a saucepan with plenty of lightly salted water and bouquet garni (bay leaf, thyme and parsley). Bring to a boil, decrease the heat to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes. Add the finely diced vegetables and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the lentils are tender; be careful not to over cook them. The vegetables should have a bite to it.
- While the lentils are cooking, make the dressing. Mix the ingredients for the dressing in a large bowl. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the dressing.
- Drain the lentils and mix them into the dressing while still warm, stirring to coat the lentils. Remove the bay leaf and thyme and let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
- Add a few grinds of pepper and mix in the parsley, nuts, and goat cheese. Taste, and adjust seasoning.
- Wash the Spinach. Remove the stem from the Spinach and shock them in water with ice for a few minutes. Dry in a salad spinner or on paper towels. Toss the Spinach in some of the reserved dressing. Don’t use all of the dressing.
- Cut the grape tomatoes in half and toss them in the dressing in an another bowl.
- Add 1 tablespoon of cream to the goat cheese and whip till its smooth.
- To plate, cut the Indian Naan bread into 1 inch wedges and place them on the plate. Place the lentil salad and arrange the spinach and grape tomatoes around it. With a melon baller, scoop the goat cheese in tiny balls and place them on the salad. Drizzle with Cilantro oil.
- Grab a fork and enjoy!