I love the French green lentils that you can buy in a gourmet grocery or specialty store, but I realize not everyone can find them easily. They are best for salads and most cooked lentil dishes for they hold their shape and don’t get mushy if you turn your back for a minute to answer the phone. The plain everyday brown lentils are ideal for soup because they cook quickly and soften fast. Obviously the brown lentils can only be used for salad if you hover over them and test them every few minutes. Brown lentils cook in ten to twelve minutes; the green, in about twenty minutes.
The Middle Eastern Salad is delicious with Turkish Artichokes, Moroccan Carrot Salad, and Baba Ghanouj (pages 47, 45, and 42). Accompany the French Salad with beet salad, with chives and leeks, with mustard vinaigrette, or sliced tomatoes with basil. With the Italian Salad serve Italian Eggplant Crouton or Bruschetta topped with fresh mozzarella and sun-dried tomatoes (pages 41 or 23). Rinse the lentils, place them in a saucepan, and cover with fresh water. Gently simmer covered over low heat until al dente. Pay attention! Drain if necessary, transfer to a mixing bowl, and toss immediately with some of the olive oil.
Dress the salad with lemon juice or vinegar, additional oil if needed, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the herb and sprinkle cheese, if using, over top.
© 1998 Joyce Goldstein. All rights reserved.