Start to finish: 1½ hours (30 minutes active) Servings: 6
Green lentils du Puy, also known as French lentils, cook quickly, hold their shape well and do a great job at soaking up flavors in a rich broth or stew.
But it can be a bit of a race to develop that flavor before the lentils overcook and become mushy. Our solution: Simmer vegetables and aromatics in advance, then add lentils.
To really punch up the flavor we turned to one of our favorite seasoning shortcuts and simmered a whole head of garlic with the herbs until it was mellow and tender; the cloves became soft enough to be mashed and formed the basis of a richly savory dressing. Pungent Gorgonzola cheese gave the salad sharp contrast, while toasted walnuts added crunch.
Don’t use brown lentils here. They are larger and have a different cooking time from peppery green lentils.
½ cup white balsamic vinegar2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 garlic head, outer papery skins removed
2 medium carrots, halved crosswise
1 celery stalk, halved crosswise
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
6 sprigs thyme, tied together
2 bay leaves
1½ cups French green lentils, sorted, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled (about ¾ cup)
½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
½ cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
1. In a liquid measuring cup, combine the vinegar, shallots and 1 teaspoon salt. Let sit for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cut off and discard the top third of the garlic head, leaving the head intact. In a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high, combine the garlic, 6 cups water, carrots, celery, mustard seeds, thyme, bay leaves and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil,then cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove and discard the carrots, celery, thyme and bay leaves.
2. Return the pot to medium-high and stir in the lentils. Return to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer until the lentils are tender but still hold their shape, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove the garlic and set aside. Drain the lentils, reserving the liquid, and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in the vinegar-shallot mixture and let cool to room temperature.
3. Squeeze the pulp from the garlic into a bowl and mash with a fork. Stir in ¼ cup of the reserved cooking water, the oil and ½ teaspoon salt. Stir the garlic mixture, half of the cheese, the parsley and half of the walnuts into the lentils. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a platter and top with the remaining cheese and walnuts.