Friday, May 9, 2008

Lentils and Superstition

A favorite of mine  -another one- ! During my first year of college in Lyon, I lived in a small studio and therefore, it was hard for me to cook anything complicated; But lentil salad was my friend and it was on my menu at least once a week. Back then, I was on a budget so I would buy canned lentils and hot-dog wieners. 

I have my grandmother Mamie to thank for my love of lentil salad! She would make lentil salad every January 1st, and I would always look forward to it, even as a kid. It's a superstition for some people in France to eat lentils on the first day of the year, to make sure you will be wealthy... Lentils kind of look like coins... Kinda...

The lentils I always use are the French green ones from Le Puy. Their quality is excellent. They are small and dark green with tiny specks and they keep their shape when cooked. I like them for how firm they remain after cooking, and that's why I think they're great in a salad (brown lentils can get too mushy). They're very earthy tasting. They're unique really. You should really try it! 

Mamie would serve them simply, with a vinaigrette, shallots and parsley. But the one thing that I loved about her salad is that she made it the day before. Make sure you pour the vinaigrette on top of the lentils when they are still warm. They will soak its flavor. And for the same reason, she used a lot of mustard in her vinaigrette (use that one, it's great). So I always make sure that I make my lentil salad a day ahead, and indeed, it's well worth it! That makes it a great dish for a picnic.

Make sure you rinse the lentils in cold water before cooking them, and cook them in cold water for about 20 minutes. Do not add salt to the water, it would make it longer for them to cook.

I usually serve the salad with a sausage called cervelat (cervelas from Lyon is made with bits of pistachios inside and it's absolutely divine, unfortunately I don't think we can find it in the US) but you can definitely use a smoked sausage or a polish sausage, or even no sausage at all! I was raised with  sausages hanging down from the ceiling down in my parents' basement, and ate LOTS of it, especially saucisson, so I really do love sausages in my lentil salad... My grandfather made saucissons, sausages, boudin, pates for the greatest part of his life; It really had an impact on me (and my hips!).

Lentil Salad with Sausage

2 cups of uncooked French green lentils (if possible, from Le Puy)
8 oz of sliced smoked sausage
1 shallot, sliced
2 teaspoons of French mustard
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2/3 cup of chopped parsley

Rinse the lentils under cold water, transfer to a large saucepan and cover with 6 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil and cook for 20-25 minutes, or until just soft but still firm. Drain and transfer to a bowl.

While the lentils cook, saute the sliced sausage in olive oil, until just a little brown (If you use a fresh sausage, I recommend cooking it in water and white wine, it gives great flavor). Let it cool on plate covered with paper towel.

Make the vinaigrette by first combining the mustard and the salt. Mix in the vinegar and slowly add the olive oil. Add the parsley and the chopped shallot.

Add the sausage to the lentils and pour the vinaigrette on top. Cover and refrigerate. Best if made one day on advance.


Adrianismo said...

HI Letty!

I love it! Cheers to your blog!

Hope you and Juan are well.

miss you guys.

Aran said...

I love lentils in any way, salad, stew, soups... These looks delicious, hearty and meaty and comforting for sure which is what a college student needs!