Genius Recipes

Patricia Wells' Green Lentil Salad

By • January 9, 2013 • 40 Comments

Every week -- often with your help -- FOOD52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: The simplest lentil salad that just might ruin you for other recipes.

Psst --- these lentils have a secret.

At a glance, nothing seems special about this recipe. Just look at them. They look like lentils you boiled, then forgot to dress up -- something that would be served at an institution, or a bad yoga retreat, or by a cook who's given up hope. 

Even the cooking methods don't scream genius. (You've probably simmered lentils with aromatics, and even tossed them in vinaigrette before.)

There's no way I would have noticed this recipe if it weren't for Food52er nogaga's advice.

As she told me, "I always want to turn this recipe over and see what's on the other side, but there's nothing there. It just is. The main challenge it presents is in not tampering with it, not giving in to the temptation to gussy it up somehow. You just have to trust -- and buy excellent lentils. That's it."

The genius seems to lie in Patricia Wells' perfect, restrained proportions, and its utter simplicity. I'm not sure I'll make lentils another way. 

  patricia wells

You could do this in your sleep: Rinse a pound of lentils, green or brown.

Simmer them with a bay leaf, a garlic clove, and a halved onion, studded with two cloves.

About 20 minutes later, drain, fish out anything that isn't a lentil, and dress it with 2 tablespoons olive oil and 4 of red wine vinegar -- uncommonly light for a French vinaigrette.

When you taste them just after mixing, you will think they're bland and watery. You'll be mad at me. But don't give up on them! Let the vinaigrette seep in for ten minutes. Salt them judiciously, sample, salt some more.

All of a sudden, the lentils will taste alive. The cloves, bay, onion and garlic, vinegar and oil are all there, tapping their toes, waiting for you to notice them. They're fragrant and substantive. You'll have a hard time putting down your fork.

 

True to my New Year's resolution, I've been making these lentils a lot, and eating them through the week. They're best served warm or room temperature -- a perfect lunch to take to work, a friend to all vegetables, a bed for all meats. 

And they're a jumping off point for all kinds of new dishes. A high note: warming them in cream with bacon-braised fennel.

Show me a yoga retreat where they're serving that, and I will show you a downward dog. A wobbly downward dog. More lentils, please.

Patricia Wells' Green Lentil Salad

Recipe adapted very slightly from Bistro Cooking (Workman Publishing, 1989)

Makes 8 servings

1 pound imported French green or brown lentils
1 medium onion, halved and stuck with 2 cloves
1 garlic clove
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black peper

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

 

Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

Photos by James Ransom (except Patricia Wells from the French Institute Alliance Française)

 

 

Tags: genius recipes, Patricia Wells, green lentil salad, winter

Comments (40)

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over 1 year ago geneva mommy

as one person said Lentils are an amazing source of protein, fiber, folate, iron and magnesium...as a salad you can even cook up a nice batch and have in the fridge for several day lunches....you can add cut up veggies such as cooked leeks, carrots, peppers, etc....you can't much healthier and it's filling!!!! one salad that will leave you satisfied...

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over 1 year ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Alas, these seemed a bit flat on the second day. Wondering if anyone else had that experience. If you are planning to make ahead to serve guests, you may want to give this recipe a test drive to confirm that you like these lentils as much after a day or two. They were fabulous when freshly made. ;o)

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over 1 year ago cookbookchick

I'm with you, AJ. Maybe this is a dish "of the moment." The next day, the lentils were utterly unremarkable. Since I still had a good bit of them, I used them in place of beans in a Nigel Slater dish from "Ripe" that included sausage and apples. Not bad!

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over 1 year ago drbabs

Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

I agree also. I ended up putting the leftovers in a big salad.

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over 1 year ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

I had a fair bit of broth left over, which I saved. Now I'm glad I did. Half of the rather large quantity of uneaten lentils will go into a soup with kale, tomatoes, sage and the usual aromatics, with the other half to be used in a salad with some roasted sweet potatoes I have on hand "Sally's Special Sweet Potatoes", posted here), parsley, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries and a maple syrup, cider vinegar and mustard vinaigrette. (Can you tell that I don't mind a bit having all these cooked lentils on hand?!) ;o)

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over 1 year ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Okay, for those of you who were disappointed with how these lost their flavor the next day or later than that: The solution is so simple. Once the lentils are cooked, set aside the ones you don’t plan to eat right away, but do so in their broth, with the bay leaf, garlic and onion. That way, they’ll have the benefit of a continuing infusion. Cover and store until about 30 minutes before you’re ready to eat them (on Day 2 or 3 . . . I typically freeze legumes after Day 3.) Then, take them out of the fridge and warm them up, very thoroughly, in the broth, with the bay leaf and onion. Actually, there probably won’t be much broth, as they legumes will continue to soak it up. Drain, remove the bay leaf, garlic and onion, and continue with Step 3 of the recipe, as you did on Day 1, adding the vinegar and oil and letting it sit. Enjoy!! ;o) P.S. I'll post an abbreviated version of this on the recipe.

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over 1 year ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Made these today. Excellent recipe. Definitely a keeper. ;o)

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over 1 year ago claireinaustin

anybody know how about how many cups of lentils in a pound? I have some in a big jar but don't know how much I need for this recipe.

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over 1 year ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

About 2 1/3 cup. ;o)

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over 1 year ago SwissKiki

Fabulous! I used Italian brown lentils. Then I tossed this with roasted bell pepper, olives, canned tuna, oregano and fresh chopped garlic to make a salad. It's really just like I've had in the restaurants in Paris!

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over 1 year ago Macedoine

I tried this, and mustered up all the willpower I could manage not to tweak, add, or otherwise substitute. (Okay, fine. I did use balsamic instead of red wine vinegar.) I have to say, all the lentil rapture in your introduction is no exaggeration - these are simply sublime. They're incredibly addictive - and I love that I'm feeling that way about something that's actually a healthy meal, as opposed to the usual suspects of baked goods, chocolate, or dessert!

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over 1 year ago fhp

Oh Dear
Balsamic raises its beastly head again and again and again.
How can I extoll the virtues of French (underlined) not Italian, French Red Wine Vinegar

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over 1 year ago Emelie Tolley

Years ago I had a fabiulous lentil salad with poached eggs and some greenery at a small cafe in Paris. Best lunch ever and I have been trying to replicate it at home ever since with no luck. Couldn't get the flavor - until I tried this recipe last night. Absolutely dead on and just as good as I remembered it. Thanks so much.

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over 1 year ago darksideofthespoon

I've been waiting for a french lentil recipe! This was AMAZING, I keep going to the fridge for sproonfuls. Last night I made a side dish of Gena's Kale and Lentil salad - delicious. My husband cleared the plate, which is amazing considering his small aversion to lentils, kale AND purple cabbage!

I might poke ONE more clove in the onion next time, just because I love clove.

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over 1 year ago Heather Butler Siler

Delicious! It was very hard for me to not add anything to the recipe, but it was totally on spot. Thank you!

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over 1 year ago mayK

I triedt his recipe with Beluga-lenils, these are small black lentils, who hold there shape after cooking and have a nutty consistensy/taste. I cook them for 12-15 min and let them cool in the cooking liqiud,then dressing them with olive oil + vinegar + salt/pepper.
Thank you so much for this recipe and for the Mujaddarra-recipe, it´s really has changed my use of lentils:))
mayK

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over 1 year ago Cafe42

I have always trusted Patricia Wells! Good on you!

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over 1 year ago Regine

Sorry for the typos. Steamed not stealed. Powder not powdet. Generous not geberoud.

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over 1 year ago Regine

Made this tonight. Very good. I ate it with stealed white rice. You really need to wait 10+ minutes for the flavors to really go into the lentils. I also added some garlic powdet. I find that you must be quite geberous with salt to really appreciate this dish. Even my 8 year old liked it and ate it just like that.

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over 1 year ago cookbookchick

Bob's Red Mill has recently started offering what they call French Green Lentils. I found them at my grocery store (Giant in Maryland) in the natural foods section. I just used them to make this dish. Most stores carry BRM products. You might have to ask about the lentils.

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over 1 year ago Alexandra Stafford

Thank you! That gives me hope for my Giant (northern VA). I forget about their natural foods section, and I love BRM products. Thanks for the tip!

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over 1 year ago cookbookchick

You're welcome! On the label it says "Petite French Green Lentils." BRM sells other lentils, as well. I have found in the grocery stores I use that BRM products can often be found in more than one section of the store depending on the category -- a bit frustrating! I stumbled on these while looking for something else. I'd love to know if you find them at your Giant.

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over 1 year ago Alexandra Stafford

Awesome! I will definitely let you know if I find them. Plan on going to the grocery store this weekend. Yes, the organization of my grocery store confuses me often :)

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over 1 year ago Alexandra Stafford

These sound wonderful! One question for anyone out there — do you recommend a good online source for lentils? I have few nice shopping options nearby, the best being Wegman's, which does not sell a nice variety of lentils. I would be willing to pay for shipping for such a delicacy. Can't wait to try these!

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over 1 year ago Nancy Purves Pollard

We have beluga, Spanish Pardena (better for soup) and French Green lentils from Zursun in Idaho online at www.lacuisineus.com

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over 1 year ago Alexandra Stafford

Thank you, Nancy! I will check out that site. Never heard of it. Sounds awesome!

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over 1 year ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Cannot wait to try this. Wells is one of my favorite food writers, ever. Like others here, I'm trying to figure out how on earth I've missed this one. ;o)

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over 1 year ago kasia S.

I wish I wasn't home sick with the flu, I'm just missing the red wine vinegar ( need a new one) and cloves :( but this weekend I am SO making it, I'm always amazed how vinegar improves all the other flavors and how well it's used in French cooking - definitely not an ingredient to miss. Thank you for this wonderful post, I'm going to make this salad and get the cookbook asap!

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over 1 year ago Aimless

I'll try this because I love lentils and it's so easy, but I can't imagine that it will beat out Mujaddara with Spiced Yogurt by Rivka. Those are some lentils.

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over 1 year ago kasia S.

I just looked up the Mujaddara with Spiced Yogurt, wow does it look tasty, and it uses a lot of onion haha, it has to be good, thanks for mentioning it, I will make it as well!

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over 1 year ago stinkycheese

One of my favorite lentil recipes. I've been making this ever since I got Patricia's book many years ago. So glad to see it on Food52!

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over 1 year ago BlueKaleRoad

Making a batch today! Thank you for sharing another genius recipe, Kristen!

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over 1 year ago Butter Beans

This looks delicious! Lentils are an amazing source of protein, fiber, folate, iron and magnesium, and are super versatile. Here's a very basic recipe for lentils with parmesan, olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Cheers! https://butterbeanskitchen...

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over 1 year ago Nancy Purves Pollard

This salad is one we have shared with a lot of our clients and it is a winner for our Saturday Tastings at La Cuisine. We have another one, a bit different from Julia Cuvy in France (here is link:http://www.lacuisineus...
Out of all her cookbooks, Bistro sells the most copies. Plus there are many salads in this book which are perfect for winter. Love how you laid out the photos and your comments!

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over 1 year ago AmeliaPS

I love this, and do it often. I like adding some "green" to mine: chopped scallions, mint, parsley... anything on hand.

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over 1 year ago cookbookchick

Such wonderful writing, Kristen! I always look forward to your posts. Another plus: One of the great pleasures of your "genius recipes" is discovering recipes I've overlooked in cookbooks I already own.

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over 1 year ago tenuta melagrana

Love Patricia Wells! Check out her recipe for Tante Paulette's Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic in her Food Lover's Guide to France. Absolutely genuis territory.

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over 1 year ago drbabs

Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

I love lentils so much. I can't believe that this cookbook has been on my shelf for...ever and i've never made these. Thank you!

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over 1 year ago Panfusine

SO love the fact that a large part of your selection of genius recipes are vegetarian friendly. thank you once again..

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over 1 year ago Nomnomnom

I agree! Thank you!