French Green Lentil Salad with Quick-Pickled Red Chard Stems

By • January 27, 2014 • 4 Comments

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Author Notes: Since discovering quick-pickled chard stems in Paul Virant’s useful and interesting “Preservation Kitchen,” I’ve found them to be a delightful way to perk up winter salads. Cutting the stems crosswise (as opposed to leaving them whole) exposes more surface area to absorb the pickling liquid. In turn, the stems release flavorful juices into the pickling liquid, which then forms the basis of the dressing. I use the Patricia Wells “Genius” recipe as a starting point for the lentils. Instead of stirring the chard leaves into the hot lentils with the vinegar – which risks discoloring the leaves – I steam them, before cutting, on top of the cooked but still hot lentils in the covered pot. The red wine + red wine vinegar base for the dressing is inspired by another excellent Virant recipe, for Mandarin Aigre-Doux. Enjoy! ;o)AntoniaJames

Serves 4-6

  • 1 cup French green lentils, sorted and rinsed
  • 2 medium shallot lobes, halved lengthwise with root end left intact (so the pieces don’t fall apart)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, smashed but left intact
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Tiny pinch (~1/8 teaspoon) ground allspice
  • Small pinch of dried thyme, rubbed between your fingers (or 3-4 fresh thyme sprigs)
  • 4 medium red chard leaves (Select tender leaves, if available.)
  • 1 medium carrot, cut into ½” dice
  • ¼ cup red wine (I use a Cotes du Rhone for this.)
  • ½ cup red wine vinegar divided into 2 one-quarter cup portions
  • 3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley leaves
  • ½ cup tiny arugula leaves, loosely packed (called “baby arugula” by some)
  • ¼ cup toasted pumpkin seeds
  • ¼ cup dried sour cherries or dried cranberries
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoons fruity olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon toasted pumpkin seed oil
  • Salt and black pepper
  1. Cut off the stems of the chard. Cut off and discard the ends and any tough portions. Cut out the remaining stems from the leaves; save those thin ribs for another use. (I chop them finely for vegetables soup.) Cut each leaf in half lengthwise (about the place where the stem was removed). Very large leaves should be cut again in half, crosswise. At this point you want large pieces, for reasons I explain below.
  2. Cut the stems crosswise into ½” pieces. (If the stems are very broad, cut them lengthwise at the base, stopping where they are about 1” wide.)
  3. Combine the lentils in a large heavy saucepan over medium with a quart of water and the shallots, garlic, bay leaves, allspice, thyme and a good pinch of salt. Bring to a boil; then simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. While the lentils are cooking, bring ¼ cup of the vinegar and the wine, maple syrup and a small pinch of salt to a simmer in a small heavy saucepan (at least 2 quart capacity). Add the chard stems and carrot dice.
  5. Simmer for about 3 minutes. Remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon. Reduce the liquid in the pan by half. Whisk in the two oils. Leave the dressing in the saucepan.
  6. Once the lentils have cooked for 20 minutes, turn off the heat, lay the chard leaves on top and cover with a tight fitting lid. Allow them to sit for 4 minutes and no more. If your leaves are very tender, check after 2 minutes. We’re just softening the leaves with the steam, not wilting them entirely. We’re doing it this way instead of stirring them in with the lentils and vinegar (the next step) to avoid discoloring the leaves with the acid.
  7. Remove the chard. Promptly remove the garlic, onion and bay leaves. Drain any remaining broth, reserving for another use, e.g., your next pot of lentil soup or minestrone. Return the lentils to the hot pot. Immediately add the remaining ¼ cup of vinegar; stir gently. Cover and let sit for at least 30 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, slice the steamed chard leaves crosswise into 1" strips. Coarsely chop the arugula leaves.
  9. When the lentils have finished resting, turn them into the saucepan with the dressing and quickly toss. ( I do it in the saucepan to get as much of the dressing as possible.)
  10. Tip the dressed lentils into a serving dish; toss with the pumpkin seeds, carrots, chard stems and cranberries or cherries. If serving right away, add the chopped chard leaves, arugula and parsley. (If not serving right away, wait to do that until shortly beforehand.)
  11. Correct salt and grind on black pepper, to taste. You may also want a bit more red wine vinegar.
  12. Enjoy!! ;o)
  13. NB: This works well as a framework recipe for variations using green chard (with white wine and white wine vinegar) and using farro, whole barley or oat groats, or quinoa as the base. I also use quick-pickled chard stems and the resulting dressing on a regular basis in my quinoa salads (made with the "not recipe" technique I contributed here last summer). The red ones in particular make a bright addition during the cold winter months. ;o)
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8 months ago aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

1) I need to get preservation kitchen back out 2) I need to make this dish

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8 months ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thank you, Abbie. I hope you do. ;o) P.S. I made 13 recipes from Preservation Kitchen last summer (quite a few multiple batches), which I've been enjoying on a regular basis since. It's by far one of my favorite new cookbooks in a long time.

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8 months ago creamtea

AJ, this looks tantalizing.

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8 months ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thank you, creamtea. That's quite a compliment. I'm somewhat addicted to quick-pickled chard stems, which I make on a regular basis to use in green salads not involving the leaves. I've wanted to try a white wine iteration, using plain green chard and a base ingredient other than lentils (oat groats + farro), but we have only had the red here for weeks now. Red chard stems are sort of like beets, in that they make everything in sight a brilliant pink. ;o)