Make Ahead

Patricia Wells' Green Lentil Salad

January  8, 2013
10 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 8
Author Notes

At a glance, nothing seems special about this recipe. The genius lies in Patricia Wells' perfect, restrained proportions, and its utter simplicity. They require patience: when you taste them just after mixing, you will think they're bland and watery. But don't give up on them! Let the vinaigrette seep in for ten minutes. Salt judiciously, tasting as you go. All of a sudden, you'll have a hard time putting down your fork. Recipe adapted very slightly from Bistro Cooking (Workman Publishing, 1989) —Genius Recipes

What You'll Need
  • 1 pound imported French green or brown lentils
  • 1 medium onion, halved and stuck with 2 cloves
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Rinse lentils and discard any pebbles. Place lentils, onion, garlic and bay leaf in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water by 1 inch. Cover and bring to a boil over medium heat.
  2. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until lentils are tender, 25-35 minutes. Add liquid as needed.
  3. Discard onion, garlic and bay leaf and drain any excess liquid. Whisk vinegar, oil and salt together in a small bowl. Pour over warm lentils and toss.
  4. Before serving, season with pepper and additional salt, if necessary. Serve warm.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Tante
  • Taylor Stanton
    Taylor Stanton
  • Andria Weil
    Andria Weil
  • Scott Citron
    Scott Citron
  • édit
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

39 Reviews

Tante March 21, 2022
Lovely dish for a summer meal in the garden. Looking forward to it already!
(I believe it’s also called ‘poor man’s caviar’.)
Tante March 21, 2022
Just for looks - and taste - I usually add chopped parsley and chives.
Taylor S. February 2, 2018
Mmmmmm :) creamy, luscious, acidic, earthy.
KellyBcooks July 25, 2017
Finally made this recipe and so glad I did! Served with goat cheese and some fresh parsley and it turned into a velvety, creamy lentil dish; the warm lentils and the crumbled goat cheese was a wonder. Served it alongside some roasted cauliflower and they married so well together. Makes a ton of lentils and will plan to freeze some. Thanks!
Andria W. January 2, 2017
Thanks cookbook chick!
Andria W. January 2, 2017
Do you need to soak the lentils for 8 hours first?
melissa October 2, 2016
i don't have whole cloves; can i use ground or omit?
mmcdaniel January 9, 2015
I followed the recipe to a T and it is delicious. I recommend doing that the first time, before you start trying to "improve" it. Oh, and had it with some simple buttered Thai rice. Filling, satisfying and really just perfect.
Scott C. November 5, 2014
Made these lentils but found them to be rather ordinary. Although I love the taste of vinegar, I also strongly disagree about the stated ratio of vinegar (1/4 cup) to olive oil (2 tablespoons). I recommend mixing up a typical 3:1 oil to vinegar vinaigrette and using that instead.
Spyan August 6, 2014
How is this "patricia wells"'s recipe? This is a classic french lentille salad, it can be bought in the cheapest restaurants around (in france). She didn't invent anything, she just copied a recipe anyone around here knows how to do. PS : use red onions.
édit February 24, 2014
I grew up with green lentils (in France) and to me they are the best. They do not become mushy unless you really overcook them. I make my lentil salad with lime juice, olive oil and chopped fresh cilantro. Delicieux!
ellenu February 5, 2014
I had high expectations for this, used very good quality French lentils, red wine vinegar and olive oil and was disappointed to find it so bland.
icuqt3.14 March 29, 2013
I've just made these again for the third time and was so excited to use my new favorite KIMBERLY organic red wine vinegar...boy, does that stuff make da beans sing! I love lentils and this is so good...subbed a shallot for the onion though...
AntoniaJames March 29, 2013
Just love the suggestions of others here to serve this as a side with salmon. Sounds perfect! And so easy, too. ;o)
icuqt3.14 March 29, 2013
I like the idea of using these in a kale soup!
AntoniaJames March 29, 2013
There was a bit of discussion on the Genius features post when this recipe was first introduced, regarding how disappointed some people were with the lentils the day after they were made. I.e., the leftovers just aren't as good. 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, garlic 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 the lentils sit for at least 20 minutes. I tried this yesterday and it worked like a charm. Enjoy!! ;o)
girlwithaknife October 15, 2016
Agree, the wait really makes a difference!
layne.dorning February 20, 2013
Substitute lime juice for the red wine vinegar - divine!
fearlessem February 20, 2013
Very tasty. 25 to 35 minutes was way too long though -- I set my timer for 20, and using french green lentils they were already on the edge of overcooked when the timer rang. I had these with a baguette, hard boiled egg, and some good canned tuna in oil. Yum.
Sweet S. January 24, 2013
I had a similar problem with the liquid not absorbing, and cooked them, and cooked them some more, but mine didn't get soft enough. so I added more water and cooked some more. They were still not as soft as I'd like. I'll give it one more try.
Kristen M. January 24, 2013
It sounds like your lentils may have been old -- is that possible? Sometimes, if they've been in your pantry (or on the store shelf) too long, they're very reluctant to soften.
char&feather January 24, 2013
I served this last night alongside broiled salmon filets. I liked the flavor but I feel the lentils turned out just a tad too mushy. The water didn't completely absorb after 35 minutes of simmering so I strained the excess. Did I cook them too long?
Kristen M. January 24, 2013
Yes, I think so -- sorry about that! I will clarify the instructions. Next time, I'd check by tasting a few.
lkbee January 13, 2013
How many cups = 1 pound of lentils?
Kristen M. January 14, 2013
It will depend a little on what type of lentils you use, but 1 pound should be approximately 2 1/3 cups of lentils.
MaryJo Z. January 13, 2013
This is just delicious!