Lentil Salad With Spicy Mustard Vinaigrette

Jan 29, 2014

Sara Dickerman's lentil salad with spicy mustard vinaigrette.
Sara Dickerman's lentil salad with spicy mustard vinaigrette.
Credit KUOW Photo/Bond Huberman

In the Pacific Northwest we're not pummeled by the Polar Vortex, but winter does drag on. By the end of January, we start to jones for daylight and fresh produce. The fruits and vegetables of summer won't be here anytime soon, but chef and food writer Sara Dickerman has created a salad that will add a little zip to the gray, mid-winter days.

The salad starts with "French" lentils: the mid-sized gray-green lentils—also called Le Puy lentils. Dickerman simmers them in water infused by garlic, onion, leek, chili pepper and whatever's on hand. The actual salad includes diced cornichons, capers, scallions and grated celery root, dressed with a spicy mustard vinaigrette.

Dickerman cheerfully admits she's all about rustic preparation. Feel free to add or subtract ingredients to your taste. Happy eating! (And watch the video below for more of Sara's cooking tips, including how to prepare a celery root.)

Sara Dickerman's lentil salad includes celery root, cornichons and capers.
Sara Dickerman's lentil salad includes celery root, cornichons and capers.
Credit KUOW Photo/Bond Huberman

Basic Lentils

1 ½ cups of green lentils
3 cups water
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 ½ tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 sprigs Italian parsley
2 sprigs thyme
1 garlic head
1 small onion or large shallot, peeled, left whole
2 dried chilies (arbol, japonais) or ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
Optional aromatics (dark green top of a leek, a peeled carrot, a celery stalk, a chopped rasher of bacon)

Place all ingredients into a pot, bring to a boil.

Turn heat down to a low simmer and cook until lentils are tender, about 25-30 minutes. Stir occasionally; add a bit more water if the lentils do not remain submerged.

When the lentils are tender, check the seasoning and add more salt if necessary. Let cool in the cooking broth. Pluck out the herbs, garlic, onion, chilies and optional aromatics before serving.  

Lentil And Celery Root Salad
My friend Josh serves an ancient gourmet lentil recipe that’s loaded with little salty bits of chopped cornichon pickles and capers. It’s brightened up with a big spoon of Dijon mustard. This is my from-memory adaptation of his salad, bolstered with the subtle crunch of grated celery root.  

For the dressing:
1 Tbsp. Dijon Mustard
¼ cup olive oil
1 Tbsp., plus 1 tsp. white wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Shake or whisk together all the ingredients.
 
For the salad:
1 batch lentils, drained
1/3 cup chopped cornichons or other not-sweet pickles
1 Tbsp. chopped capers
1 cup peeled, grated celery root
1 bunch scallions, white and light green parts only, minced finely
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley leaves
1 Tbsp. chopped tarragon
Salt, ground black pepper
Lemon juice to taste
 
Stir all the ingredients together. Add additional salt, black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice if necessary.