Warm Lentil Salad with Goat Cheese

 , The New York Times  |  Updated: October 15, 2014 19:03 IST

Warm Lentil Salad with Goat Cheese
Even people who swear they don't abide beans find pleasure in the distinctive, profound flavor of lentils. Their delicious broth is as comfortable with Indian or Mexican spices as it is with seasonings from every corner of the Mediterranean. They cook quickly, and you want them on the al dente side for this salad. That means they'll be ready in 25 minutes, still a long enough simmering time to yield a savory broth.

Goat cheese and lentils make a particularly good pairing; the little earthy-sweet legumes love a salty-umami complement (that's why you so often see them paired with sausage and other cured pork products), and goat cheese fits the bill. Here the combination is especially cozy, as the goat cheese melts into the warm lentils, bathing them in a creamy dressing.

Lentils and vinegar also marry well, which is why the dressings I use for my lentil salads are always on the vinegary side. The key is to add the dressing while the lentils are still warm, even if you don't plan on serving the salad warm.

I spoon the mixture onto a bed of wild arugula, though regular will do if you can't find the sharper tasting, wispy wild variety. It's a nice pungent contrast to the lentils, and pretty, too.

Warm Lentil Salad With Goat Cheese
Time: 40 minutes
Yield: 6 servings
2 cups/14 ounces green, brown or black lentils, rinsed and picked over
6 cups water
1 small or 1/2 large onion, halved
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup broth from the lentils
3 to 4 ounces goat cheese (to taste), crumbled
Black pepper
1/4 cup minced chives or parsley, or both
2 cups wild or baby arugula1. In a medium pot, combine lentils, onion, two of the garlic cloves and the bay leaf with 6 cups water. Bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Add salt to taste, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer 25 minutes, until lentils are cooked through but still have some texture (they should not be mushy). Taste and adjust salt. Using tongs, remove onion and bay leaf. (You may cook lentils up to four days ahead and store in the refrigerator. Bring back to a simmer and proceed with recipe.)

2. In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix together vinegar, remaining garlic, salt to taste and olive oil. Set aside.

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3. Place a strainer over a bowl and carefully drain lentils, reserving 1/4 cup of the broth. Return lentils to the pot. Whisk reserved broth into the dressing, then stir dressing into lentils. Add goat cheese and stir until it has melted into the lentils. Season to taste with pepper. Stir in herbs.

4. Line a platter, salad plates or wide bowls with arugula. Top arugula with the lentils. Serve warm.
Variation: Add the chopped leaves of 1 generous bunch Swiss chard (about 8 cups chopped leaves). At the end of Step 1, stir chard into cooked lentils and return the lid to the pan. Simmer for 3 minutes, stirring halfway through. Taste and adjust salt. Proceed with the recipe.

Comments© 2014 New York Times News Service

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