Lentil Salad from James Beardfeatured

Today’s recipe is brought to you by The Essential James Beard Cookbook, the talented food writer, Marie Simmons, California Olive Ranch, and the letter “D” for delicious.

How does it all fit together? Well, the dish comes from the latest collection of James Beard’s influential recipes. This new book is full of classics like Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic, Cioppino, and this hearty Lentil Salad.

You may have read all about California Olive Ranch in my last post, so you’ve already seen how gorgeous their olive orchards are. Now, we’re going to see that EVOO in action.

California Olive Ranch Arbequina EVOO

Fresh and Fruity Arbequina EVOO

I connected with Marie to put a modern spin on Mr. Beard’s Lentil Salad. Back in the day, Marie worked in the test kitchen of Woman’s Day magazine. One of her responsibilities was to prepare special lunches for the food editor and her guests. James Beard (Jim to his friends) was often among the guests. Here’s what she had to say about “Jim” and the new cookbook:

I loved reading the recipes in the latest compilation of his work, The Essential James Beard Cookbook. They are so true to his nature: relaxed, confident and unpretentious. Just plain good food.

Some may remember or know from photographs that Jim was a very large man. Jim didn’t count calories, that’s for sure. Tall and wide compared to my short and slender stature we must have looked silly standing side by side discussing cooking and recipes. But he was so gregarious and unassuming I always felt comfortable in his company. I just wish I had a photo of us together. I think the tip top of my head barely reached his armpit.

– Marie Simmons, food writer

Marie chose this Lentil Salad for us to make because as she puts is, “It is so typical of Mr. Beard’s food: hearty, rich and flavorful.” Also, since legumes are all the healthy rage these days, it is a recipe for all times.

The Essential James Beard CookbookWe modernized the recipe a touch, adding more green and adjusting the treatment of the lentils. Mr. Beard’s recipe says to soak them overnight, but dried lentils today are relatively “fresh” and cook quickly as a result.

I’ll admit, I was a little skeptical when I saw this recipe. I mean, how exciting could lentils be? But, as I should have guessed, Jim and Marie made me a convert. I adored this dish and will be making it again often.

Tossing an onion, garlic, cloves, and bay leaf in to the lentils’ cooking water is a brilliant way to add subtle flavor to the beans. The bacon adds a salty, savory, meaty crunch. Fistfuls of parsley and scallions like this light and fresh. Edamame (or petite green peas) make you feel downright virtuous eating this (yes, it cancels out the bacon guilt). And the lentils just soak up all that good extra virgin olive oil, making them rich and buttery.

Versatile, healthy, and delicious, this hearty lentil salad is a keeper. I had it last night tossed with some arugula and pears. It was so satisfying I forgot I was eating a salad for dinner. And, I already can’t wait to make it again to go with my favorite Creamy Mustard Salmon. Now that’s a perfect weeknight meal right there.

So, big thanks to Mr. James Beard and Marie! I’ll never doubt you again.

Lentil Salad

Lentil Salad inspired by James Beard

Lentil Salad with Bacon and Edamame

Yield: 8-10 servings

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Versatile, healthy, and delicious, this hearty lentil salad is a wonderful recipe to add to your repertoire. Mr. Beard suggests serving as a buffet side dish with ham. It would also be wonderful over greens as a main course, or with salmon, grilled leg of lamb, or deviled eggs. (Adapted from The Essential James Beard Cookbook).

Ingredients

  • 1 pound (about 2 1/4 cups) brown lentils, rinsed
  • 1 medium yellow onion stuck with 2 whole cloves
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (I used California Olive Ranch's Arbequina EVOO)
  • 5 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces bacon
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen edamame or petite green peas, thawed and cooked in boiling water and drained
  • 1 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley (about 1 medium bunch, including flavorful stems)
  • 1 cup thinly sliced scallions, white and green parts

Instructions

  1. To prepare the lentils: Fill a large saucepan 3/4 with water, add the onion stuck with cloves, garlic, bay leaf, and 1 tablespoon kosher salt, and heat to boiling.
  2. Add the drained lentils and cook uncovered, occasionally stirring gently, until lentils are tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. While the lentils are cooking, cut the bacon into 1/2 inch lengths and cook until crisp. Drain and cool. Break into coarse crumbled pieces and set aside.
  4. When the lentils are done cooking, drain and discard the onion, garlic, and bay leaf. Transfer the lentils to a large serving bowl. While the lentils are still warm add the olive oil, vinegar, minced garlic, salt and pepper and gently stir to blend.
  5. Add the edamame (or peas), parsley, and scallions to the lentils and toss to combine. This salad improves if it is allowed to stand for an hour or so. Taste before serving and add more oil and vinegar if desired. Garnish with the bacon before serving.
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