French-Style Lentil Salad

Salad season is fast approaching.  I am already craving crunch.  This salad was inspired by all the French food I’ve been eating in San Francisco.  It is particularly nice because you can make it ahead– It is actually better if you let it sit for an hour or two.  It lasts several days in the fridge (well, not around here…). And it is not dependent on fragile, of-the-moment produce, so you can make it whenever the mood hits.  The recipe calls for red wine vinegar, but go ahead and experiment.  My absolute favorite, so far, is a combination of poppy (!) and sherry vinegar.  The recipe makes about 4 cups.  Enjoy!

½ c. finely diced onion
Ice water
1 ½ cups black “beluga” lentils
3 ¾ cups of water
Large clove garlic
1 tsp. finely ground sea salt
½ c. plus 2 T. olive oil
4 T. red wine vinegar (or 2 T. sherry and 2 T. poppy vinegar)
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. sugar
½ tsp. ground celery seeds
¼ tsp. (or more) red pepper flakes
Black pepper
1 c. finely diced celery

Place diced onion in a bowl of ice water to cover and let sit for at least 30 minutes.

Rinse and sort lentils. Combine lentils and 3 ¾ cups water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer gently until lentils are cooked, but still have a slight bite, about 25 minutes. Most of the water will have been absorbed.  Drain briefly, if needed.

While lentils cook, make the dressing: Mince the garlic clove and mash it into a paste with the salt. Place this paste in the bottom of a medium-size mixing bowl. Add olive oil, vinegar(s), Dijon mustard, sugar, celery seed, red pepper flakes and several grinds of fresh black pepper. Whisk well to combine.

Toss still-warm lentils with dressing. Drain onions. Stir onions and celery into the lentils. Serve cold or at room temperature.

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