Meatless Monday – French Lentils

By Meg Claire

Thanksgiving in Paris was a dream. Although there’s a decent exchange rate right now, eating out for every breakfast, lunch and dinner would’ve bankrupted me. That’s why I rent a lovely little apartment (also a money-saver, compared to hotels) with a kitchen where I can prepare some meals.

Last week I made couscous, gratins, and salads with produce bought on rue Montorgueil and with grains from L’Epicerie d’Izrael, a fascinating shop packed to the rafters with Middle Eastern spices, rice, lentils, dried fruits, nuts, and olives. (Actually, I had a little "Amelie" fantasy moment – I wanted to dip my hand deep into the lentil bin!)

I went straight for the Le Puy lentils. These rustic legumes are prized because they hold their shape beautifully when cooked and possess a subtle, earthy flavor. Le Puy lentils are tiny, violet-gray in color, and often simply called French Lentils. If you usually turn lentils onto Indian flavor profiles, consider a French take. Serve French Lentils over frisee or a bitter greens salad with bright lemony dressing. Or top with a fried egg or a dollop of grain mustard (or truffle shavings). A crusty baguette is the natural partner to French Lentils, which are even better on the second day.

French Lentils

Serves 6

1 cup Le Puy lentils (or other small green lentils)

½ cup dry white wine (I use vermouth)

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

1 stalk of celery, chopped

1 bay leaf

4 fresh thyme sprigs

3 small shallots, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1/8 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

1 teaspoon sherry vinegar

1 tablespoon olive oil

Pick over the lentils for stones and rinse well. Place in a saucepan with 4 cups of water. Add the wine, carrot, celery, bay leaf, half the shallots and half the garlic. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until the lentils are just tender and have absorbed most of the liquid, about 30 minutes.

Drain the lentils, reserving about 2 tablespoons of the cooking liquid. Place the lentils and reserved liquid in a serving bowl. Add the remaining shallots and garlic, the parsley and toss to mix. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir in the vinegar and then drizzle with olive oil. Serve warm or at room temperature.

How do you eat vegan (or vegetarian) when traveling? (Have you been reading the Blissful Chef's food travels in Asia?  Weird and wild stuff!)

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