Sunday, July 01, 2007

Wow Them at the Next Potluck

Do you always bring the same thing to potlucks? I know everyone loves your smoky sassy baked beans or asian cole slaw or molded sunshine salad...and you can bring that next time. But maybe for the 4th of July bash or the Bastille Day picnic you want to try something different this year.
A good place to start is with the Lentil Salad with Bacon (which tastes great without the bacon, too, if you don't want bacon in your salad). It's an adapatation of a recipe by Alton Brown of the Food Network.

Lentils are jam packed with nuturients and fiber and they also are the second best source of plant protein after soybeans. The thing that I like is that they cook up really fast, without soaking, so they are ready to go into the salad quickly. The salad can also be served at room temperature or warm, so it's perfect for the potluck at the soccer game or baseball game. No need to worry if it sits out on a hot summer day.

The best thing about this salad is that it tastes so good. I tried it before I added the bacon and it was yummy that way, too.

For mine, I used 1.5 cups of regular green lentils, and 1 cup of the tiny French green lentils. I added the French lentils to boil 15 minutes after I started the regular ones so that they wouldn't overcook. They added a slightly mineral taste. The salad would probably be fine if made completely with either kind of lentil. The other change I made was due to poor planning. I didn't have any red wine vinegar, so I substituted balsamic vinegar, white vinegar and lemon juice. The fresh herbs certainly give the salad a positive flavor, so try to use fresh instead of dried.

Lentil Salad
based on a recipe by Alton Brown

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
(the above three ingredients can be replaced with 1/2 cup red wine vinegar)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt (kosher salt if you have it)
1/2 teaspoon pepper (freshly ground is best)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 recipe Basic Cooked Lentils (see recipe below)
2 strips bacon, cooked until crisp, cooled, and crumbled (or more, to taste)

Whisk the vinegars, lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, salt, pepper, parsley and thyme together in a large mixing bowl. Add the warm lentils and bacon and stir to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature. If you will be serving this much later, save the bacon in a zip-lock bag and add it 1/2 hour or so before serving. (That way the bacon stays crisp.)

Basic Cooked Lentils
1 pound brown or green lentils, approximately 2 1/2 cups
1 small onion, halved
1 large clove garlic, halved
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 pound salt pork, optional
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Pick over the lentils, rinse and drain. Place the lentils along with the onion, garlic, bay leaf, salt and pork into a large 6-quart saucepan and cover with water by 2 to 3 inches. Place over high heat and bring just to a rolling boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the lentils are tender, approximately 25 to 30 minutes. Drain any remaining liquid and discard the onion, garlic, bay leaf and salt pork. Stir in black pepper and taste for salt. Serve immediately or use in Lentil Salad.


  1. Elle, I just love lentils so much and this salad is the perfect dinner.

  2. Another alternative to leaving out the bacon is to use something called Bakon Yeast: it's nutritional yeast which has been smoked in the same fashion as bacon. If you heat a bit of oil & dissolve the Bakon Yeast in that, it works best, and will give you that little bit of fat that bacon would give, too.

    Have you tried the rounded lentils (which are actually mung beans)? They hold up a bit better & tend not to go to mush so quickly.

  3. Patricia, It is great for dinner. Just had some more last night.

    Davi-mack, Thanks for the info on Bakon Yeast. I'll try that.
    These weren't mushy because I cooked them al dente plus just a little. Mung beans sound interesting as an alternative.

  4. Anonymous4:35 AM

    Elle, this looks delicious. I'm going to give it a try soon, since I'm working on getting more legumes into our diet. How much bacon is used?

  5. Julie, 4-6 slices of bacon, cooked is what the recipe calls for. I used 6 slices and cooked them until they were crisp, then crumbled them and added them at the end, right before I served the lentil salad.