Warm Lentil Salad with Swiss Chard, Feta and Red Wine-Black Pepper Vinaigrette

By • December 28, 2010 10 Comments

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Author Notes: For my family's Christmas dinner, my youngest brother, home from college, was in charge of the salad. He made amazing, taste-bud tingling, red wine-black pepper vinaigrette that he had enjoyed at a friend's house on Thanksgiving. His dressing was bold, but had great flavor; I thought with a little tweaking, it would be the perfect match for a warm lentil salad. I love eating lentils with swiss chard and feta - something about the combination makes the whole much greater and better than any single part. This is delicious as a light vegetarian dinner option, but is equally good with a link of Italian sausage, if you are looking for more protein. (The first photo above, includes sausage, while the second is the vegetarian version). NOTE: This dressing is purposely under-salted to accommodate the feta and sausage (if using). If you are making the dressing for a green salad, adjust salt to taste accordingly. - gingerrootgingerroot

Food52 Review: Gingerroot’s Warm Lentil Salad was a huge hit. It is a great balance; the nuttiness from the lentils, salty feta, kick from the spicy Italian sausage, and then the chard leaves and crunchy stems all worked beautifully together. I did add just a bit more vinegar than called for but that was the only adjustment. Everyone in Ginger’s kitchen (arielleclementine, Helenthenanny, Sagegreen and me—oh, and of course Ginger) was making yum noises while we ate, and I think we are all planning to make it again soon!! aargersi

Serves 2-4 as a light meal

For the Red Wine-Black Pepper Viniagrette:

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sliced sweet onion (trimmed, thin wedges)
  • 1 large garlic clove, peeled, smashed with flat side of a knife
  • 2 tablespoons good quality red wine vinegar
  • 3 fresh sweet basil leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 shallot, peeled, rough chopped
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of sea salt

For the Lentil Salad:

  • 1 cup black Beluga lentils (or Du Puy lentils - you want one that will hold its shape after cooking), rinsed, picked over
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 6 large rainbow Swiss chard leaves, with stems (ends trimmed)
  • 1 link Italian sausage (optional)
  • 2-3 tablespoons feta cheese
  • 2-3 tablespoons Red Wine-Black Pepper vinaigrette
  • plus 1/2 T olive oil if not using sausage
  1. In a 10-inch skillet, start to make the vinaigrette by heating 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add sliced onion wedges, garlic clove, and slowly caramelize, turning down heat if necessary to prevent burning. Cook for about 10 minutes, until onion is fragrant, golden brown and slightly stringy. Remove skillet from heat.
  2. While onion and garlic are caramelizing, start your lentils. In a large saucepan bring lentils and water to a boil. Cover pot, reduce heat and slowly simmer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, turn off the heat and leave lentils covered for 5 minutes more. At this point, I removed the lid and left the lentils in the warm cooking water (pot on the burner) until I was ready to put the salad together, and they were perfectly cooked. If you are wary, you can drain them, but lentils may not be as warm when you put the salad together.
  3. While the lentils are cooking, finish the vinaigrette. Transfer caramelized onion and garlic to a blender (set skillet aside - you will use it again in step 5). Add the vinegar, basil, Dijon mustard, shallot, ground black pepper, dried thyme and puree until combined. Carefully drizzle oil in through the lid, while blender is on (with one hand drizzling the oil in, I used my other hand to shield the top of the blender, preventing dressing splatter), pureeing vinaigrette. Scrape dressing with a spatula in to a container with a lid. Add a pinch of sea salt. Shake and set aside.
  4. Separate chard stems from leaves. Chop stems and set aside. Chop leaves crosswise, into thin ribbons. If you are including sausage in your salad, continue with step 5. If you are not including sausage, skip 5 and proceed with step 6.
  5. Heat skillet over medium heat. Remove sausage from casing and cook, crumbling meat with a wooden spoon. Cook until no longer pink. Transfer to a bowl lined with a paper towel. Add chard stems and cook in sausage grease for a minute, stirring. Add chopped leaves and cook for a minute more, until bright green and beginning to wilt. Remove skillet from heat. Skip to step 7.
  6. Heat 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add chard stems and cook for a minute, stirring. Add chopped leaves and cook for a minute more, until bright green and beginning to wilt. Remove skillet from heat.
  7. Drain lentils and transfer to a large serving bowl. Carefully fold in chard (and sausage, if using). Fold in the feta to taste (I used 2 1/2 tablespoons). Top with dressing to taste (I used 2 tablespoons) and fold to combine evenly. Serve immediately and enjoy.

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