Today’s Warm Lentil Salad is brought to by the word “guilt”. Well, not so much the word, more the emotion. I suppose it’s a post-holiday inevitability, but food-related guilt is the absolute worst. Food normally makes me happy, but I guess that’s what got me into this shame spiral in the first place.
The guilt hit soon after I returned from Europe. While I was whooping it up in Paris with all my pastry pals, the debauchery seemed permissible – not even permissible; it felt expected. What was I going to do? Return from Paris with tales of all the lettuce I encountered? But even if the context supported my dubious eating habits, going hog wild (emphasis on the hog) is not without its consequences. Hence the guilt. Hence the salad.
That being said, there’s bacon in this Warm Lentil Salad – I’m repentant, not insane. Oh, and there’s also booze in it. What? This is how I do “healthy”. It’s just a little cognac… Look at the lentils! Lentils are good for you. Just focus on the lentils.
I adore lentils and not just for their protein prowess. When you’re a history nerd like me, you tend to get a little excited when you prepare and eat lentils. Lentils are at once ancient and commonplace. There is evidence that suggests lentils have been a part of the human diet since the Neolithic period, which just gives me goosebumps. These legumes directly connect us with people who lived thousands of years ago. We may have very little in common with our ancient counterparts, but we both ate lentils, so it feels like some small connection.
The world’s greatest time machine is food. Now, I’m not saying that the food we eat and the culture surrounding it hasn’t changed – it has on a massive scale. But while it’s true a dude from the Renaissance wouldn’t know his way around a tetra pack, there is still a common thread from the meals we eat today to the meals of yesterday. Food seems to be the most direct and visceral route to the past.
Now, if this is sounding a tad too profound for an article accompanying a Warm Lentil Salad recipe, I apologize. I just think lentils are neat.
You know what else is neat? This Warm Lentil Salad. It comes together in a flash and it’s a lot healthier than a cheese plate. So, if you’re trying to get your life back on track after being seduced by exceptionally good butter (the struggle is real), this salad will nudge rather than push you back in the right direction.
- 2 cups dried green lentils, rinsed
- 4 cups water
- 1 bay leaf
- 5-6 sprigs thyme, tied with butcher twine
- 1/2 cup smoked Portuguese-style bacon*, diced
- 2 shallots, thinly sliced
- 1 oz cognac
- 6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon whole grain Dijon mustard
- 3 small carrots, shaved into ribbons
- 2 whole radishes, thinly sliced
- 2 eggs
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- * You can use pancetta or regular bacon if you can't track down the Portuguese-style.
- Place lentils in a medium-sized saucepan. Add the water, bay leaf and thyme bundle to the pot and place over high heat. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Leave the lentils to cook for 25-30 minutes. They should be tender, not mushy.
- While the lentils are cooking, place the bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the until crisp. About 10 minutes.
- Add the shallots to the hot pan and sauté until transparent. About three minutes.
- Deglaze the pan with a shot of cognac and let the alcohol cook off a bit. About a minute.
- Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the red wine vinegar and mustard. Taste and season with salt accordingly.
- Drain the finished lentils and place them in a large salad bowl. Add the radishes, carrots, and bacon cognac dressing to the bowl. Toss to combine.
- Crack eggs into their own ramekins and set them aside.
- Fill a small saucepan with water until it is 8 cm (3 inches) deep. Heat the water over low heat until it begins to simmer. Make sure it doesn't break into a full boil.
- Stir in the white vinegar and then form a whirlpool in the center of the water using a wooden spoon.
- Pour the eggs into the center of the whirlpool and leave them to simmer for 3 minutes.
- When the eggs are done, remove them from the water using a slotted spoon. Drain well before serving.
- To serve, place poached eggs on a bed of the finished lentil salad and garnish with additional fresh thyme, and salt & pepper.