I invented this salad for Easter lunch and it was very successful; one friend declared it the best she had ever eaten, and another complimented on the pairing of lentil and fennel, which really is a great combination.
The salad is at once sturdy and fresh and immediately evoked images of picnic baskets and blankets, meadows and shady branches undulating in the breeze. It would also be great for the beach. I will make it for our picnic on Fire Island on this weekend. —nettleandquince
6 as an appetizer
1 cup green lentils (preferably Castelluccio or du Puy)
1 small red onion
2 bulbs fennel
A generous handful flat-leaved parsley
1 bay leaf
3 Tbsps good olive oil
2 Tbsps balsamic vinegar
Juice and zest from 1 lemon (more lemon juice may be required depending on how juicy it is)
Pick through the lentils to look for small stone intruders that must be discarded. To wash the lentils, cover with cold water and drain in a fine mesh sieve.
Peel and cut into large chunks the onion and half a fennel, reserving the rest of the fennel for later.
Place lentils into a medium-sized saucepan with 2 cups (double the volume) water. Add vegetable chunks, a few sprigs of parsley, and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil and let simmer, covered, for about 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat when the lentils are cooked to your liking – I like them to retain a nice bite. Discard sprigs of parsley and vegetable chunks, pour lentils into a large bowl, and place in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight.
Wash and finely chop the rest of the parsley.
Cut the fennel in half. Place it face side down onto the cutting board, and cut into thin strips, height-wise.
Season the lentils with the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and zest, salt, and pepper. **The measurements given above are suggestions. I find that lentils hold up to a bold amount of acidity. It is best to season gradually, and adjust according to taste.**
Toss the lentils with the fennel and parsley. Check one last time for seasoning, adjust if necessary, and serve.