Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Joanne Weir's Green Lentil and Red Pepper Salad Recipe with Red Onion, Mint, and Feta

Green Lentil and Red Pepper SaladI'm an enthusiastic fan of Feta cheese, so recently when my friend David Lebovitz wrote about Joanne Weir's Cucumber and Feta Salad, I drooled over the recipe. Then when David said the recipe came from a cookbook he loved so much that he hand-carried it with him when he moved to France, well you longtime readers know where I'm going with this, don't you? Of course I had to buy Joanne Weir's From Tapas to Meze - Small Plates from the Mediterranean, and I can tell you there hasn't been a cookbook I've swooned over this much for a long time. What a fantastic collection of amazing-sounding recipes.

When I removed the book from it's mail-order wrapping it fell open to the page with this salad of French green lentils, red pepper, mint, and feta and I told myself I had to make the salad, but when the book opened to that page a second time a few days later, I felt the universe was indeed nudging me to try it. I even had a jar with some of the tiny green lentils recommended (although I'd thrown away the package, so I don't know if they're the true Lentilles de Puy.) I do think this salad would still be good with ordinary brown lentils, but if you haven't tried green French lentils, you should experience their delicious nutty flavor, and they hold their shape and texture much better in a salad like this.

The herbal undertones in the recipe come from mint, also called mentha, which I think goes perfectly with feta and the other ingredients here. I have two types of mint in my garden but there are actually twenty-five species of mint and many hundred different varieties. Mint is grown in Europa, Africa, Asia, Australia, and North America, and if you're planting some where you live, be sure to keep it contained inside a pot or garden barrier, because the plant can easily become invasive and take over everything in its path. Other than that issue, it's almost ridiculously easy to grow. When I wrote about Cooking with Mint for BlogHer.com, I realized it can be used in an endless variety of dishes, but in my own kitchen, I mostly use mint in summery salads like this one. This delicious salad with mint is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Srivalli from Cooking 4 All Seasons. If you'd like to enter, please read the new rules for Weekend Herb Blogging and then check how to send your entry.

Here is an up-close-and-personal look at the green lentils I bought in L.A. once when I was visiting Rand. If they aren't the actual Lentils de Puy, they certainly were good in the salad.

For this type of salad, I can be a bit fanatical about "symmetry of cut" which means I want all the pieces to be close to the same size. For red bell peppers, I like to cut the pepper in fourths, then slices, and then small dice to get uniform-sized pieces.


Joanne Weir's Green Lentil and Red Pepper Salad with Red Onion, Mint, and Feta
(Makes 4-6 servings, recipe from From Tapas to Meze - Small Plates from the Mediterranean, very slightly adapted by Kalyn.)

Ingredients:
1 cup dried lentils, preferably Green French Lentils de Puy
3 bay leaves
4 large cloves garlic
1/4 tsp. dried oregano (or more, I used about 1/2 tsp.)
1 red onion, chopped into pieces about 1/4 inch
1 red bell pepper, chopped into pieces about 1/4 inch
5 T finely chopped mint (or more, I used about 1/2 cup mint)
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
6 oz. Feta cheese, crumbled
(original recipe called for a garnish of chopped Kalamata olives, which I didn't use)

Dressing Ingredients:
6 T good quality olive oil
6 T red wine vinegar
2 T fresh squeezed lime juice (optional, original recipe didn't use this but I liked the addition of lime)
1/2 tsp. ground cumin (or more, I used about 1 tsp.)
1 tsp. finely minced garlic

Instructions:
Rinse lentils and pick out any broken pieces or debris. Place lentils in a pan with enough water to cover by several inches, then add bay leaves, garlic, and oregano and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer gently for 20-25 minutes, until lentils are tender but still firm and slightly chewy. Drain well and cool.

Whisk together the dressing ingredients and season to taste with salt and fresh ground black pepper.

While lentils are cooling, chop onion and red bell pepper Put cooled lentils in a bowl, add red onion and red pepper, then gently stir in dressing. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, pepper, or vinegar if desired. Let salad marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Just before serving, chop mint and add to salad. Sprinkle salad with chopped feta and serve.

If this makes more than you will be eating at one time, I thought the salad was still good after being in the fridge for a couple of days, but don't add the feta until just before serving.

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South Beach Suggestions:
Lentils and other types of dried beans are a great low-glycemic food for the South Beach Diet, or any other low-glycemic eating plan, and everything in this salad is approved for any phase of the South Beach Diet. (I would recommend you use less Feta for South Beach.) This would taste great with something like Very Greek Grilled Chicken or Kalyn's Souvlaki.

More Great Salads Featuring Mint:
(Recipes from other blogs may not always be South Beach Diet friendly; check ingredients.)
Wake Up Your Mouth Thai Cucumber Salad
Cucumber and Avocado Salad with Lime, Mint, and Feta
Chopped Tomato and Cucumber Salad with Mint, Feta, Lemon, and Thyme
Middle Eastern Tomato Salad
Chopped Middle Eastern Salad with Purslane
Lentil Salad with Feta, Mint, and Orange from In My Box
Charred Aubergine with Tomato, Mint, and Feta from The Frugal Cook
Halloumi, Watermelon, and Mint Salad from The Culinary Chase
Mint and Parsley Salad with Persian Cucumbers from Modern Beet
Lime Quinoa Salad with Mint from Karina's Kitchen

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21 comments:

Alanna said...

This looks great! Trader Joe's also has black lentils which have the same meaty texture as the French lentils.

Patricia Scarpin said...

Kalyn, your salads always blow me away. I can't wait to get my hands on some feta and try this delicious dish - I'm a sucker for lentils, too!

Maria said...

Your veggies are cut perfectly! Your pictures are always amazing! I love all of the ingredients in this salad, can't wait to make it!

Cate said...

Wow, beautiful colors in the picture, Kalyn. It totally pops. I've only had lentils cooked in something... might be time to branch out a bit. :)

Sylvia said...

Your salad looks fabulous. Mint and feta are a great combo Very Mediterranean salad. Love it

Christine said...

Great looking salad, Kalyn. I love lentils, especially the tiny French green ones. And Joanne Weir is one of my favorite cookbook authors. Sad to say, I just missed her when I was in Portland a few weeks ago; she was giving a cooking class at a favorite kitchen store.

Kitchen Flavours said...

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Mallika said...

What a great salad idea! I have a HUGE bag of green lentils. By the way did you notice how the red onions almost pickled in the red wine vinegar? Nigella Lawson does a similar salad with feta, mint and red onions.

Pam said...

I am always searching for ways to use up my abundance of mint! I love all the ingredients in this!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

I've had this cookbook on my list to buy, but now I'm moving it to the top of the list. I love both green and black lentils -- and I'm also experimenting with white lentils now. They're hard to find, but quite delicious.

Sue said...

Kalyn, I've been checking out your blog from time to time. I read your article about mint.
Come morning, I'll be looking for some kind of barrier to put around my mint. :-) I know nothing about growing herbs. Can I still harvest my mint once it flowers? Am I supposed to be cutting those flowers back?

Kalyn said...

I'm glad people are liking this salad recipe, all credit to Joanne Weir because my minor adaptations were just because I always like things just the way I want them, know what I mean! And truly, I can't say enough good things about this cookbook. It's just filled with fantastic sounding recipes.

Sue, in my garden I have one of those plastic borders that you pound down into the ground around the mint, and it keeps it pretty well in place if I keep an eye on it and pull up the stems that creep over the border. You can still use the mint that has started to flower, but cut off the flower part and throw it away. If you keep it trimmed, the plant will get bushier, so that's one good reason to cut off the flowers when they start to show up.

Jill said...

Kalyn,
Thanks for the tip on cutting off the flowers on the mint. I was cutting some for tea this morning and wondering if that was the best thing to do. Now I know!

One tip I have for getting all of the onions and peppers cut the same size is to use the Vidalia Chop Wizard (as seen on TV but now found in most stores). I am buying peppers and onions at the Farmers Market at a cheaper price right now, cutting them into tiny squares with the Wizard and freezing in small amounts (ice tray squares) to use later in the winter.
Enjoy your blog..found just as I started the South Beach. Thanks so much.

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

I love lentils of any kind, but the French green lentils are really special!

Glenna said...

Mmmmm...looks delicious. Funny, I've been telling myself lately I need to eat more lentils.

Sophie said...

I'm so glad you posted this Kalyn - I've been hoping that you would after you tweeted about it.

Your lentils are a little lighter and less grey/green than the imported puy lentils we get in the UK, but I've no idea if that means they are something different!

I'm off to check out the book on amazon

Valentina said...

I share the passion for feta with you. It is such wonderful cheese. There are so many ways to use it. I have another one of Patricia's book and it is a fabulous book that always bring me pleasure whichever recipe I try from it. Great choice of salad.

emorygrrl said...

Hi Kalyn! I was inspired to use your recipe to make my own...I substituted black beans for the lentils and also added a can of tuna. It was so pretty and appetizing...and the feta added a punch!
Thank you!

Jeanne said...

Ooooh, my kind of recipe! We actually had my favourite lentil dish last night, which is a warm aproximation of this - slightly spicy lentils with fried garlic, onions and mushrooms and feta cheese. YUM! I am definitely going to try this salad.

Jo Anne said...

this is second time I've googled this recipe and got your site. A delicious salad. I don't normally like this much mint but it works here. thanks so much for posting it-one day I'll have to get the book.

Kalyn said...

Jo Anne, glad you are enjoying it.

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