Spanish Lentil Salad with Vadeon Cheese

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Lentils are a great bean to work with. They cook up in about 30 minutes, you don’t need to pre-soak them and they are packed with flavor. You have to keep an eye on them while they are cooking though. If you over cook them, they turn into mush. Green French lentils hold up a little better and stay firm. They maybe a little tough to find, I get them in bulk from our local Whole Foods. There are fancy French green lentils, known as lentils du puy, that are supposed to be amazing but I couldn’t find any locally.

The recipe comes from the Jose Andres cookbook that accompanies his TV show on PBS, Made in Spain. It is in one of the second season episodes, otherwise I would link to it on Hulu. Hulu has all of the season one episodes online, check it out if you haven’t already. For all you lazy people, I am going to embed an episode right here so you have no excuse:

One of the secrets of this dish is that you reserve the cooking liquid from the lentils, boil it down and then use it as part of the dressing for the lentils. The lentils are cooked with onions and garlic giving the broth a serious flavor boost! When you cook this down it is absolute goodness. Since the cheese is pretty salty, you can probably dial down the salt a little. It came out a little salty when I used the full amount.

Vadeon cheese maybe a little hard to find. Our Whole Foods had it. It is worth the hunting though, it is a great blue cheese with a lot of character and a respectable amount of funk. If you can’t find it, a Stilton will also work. This dish can be served warm or cold.

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Lentil Salad with Vadeon Cheese

Ingredients:

For the salad

  • 1 cup dried French green lentils
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1/2 head of garlic, papery outer skin removed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced, seeded plum tomatoes
  • 1 shallot, diced

For the dressing

  • 3 tablespoons Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives
  • 2 ounces Valdeon cheese, crumbled (Stilton or other good-quality blue cheese may be substituted)

Directions:

  1. Add the lentils, onion, garlic, bay leaf, olive oil, salt and 4 cups water to a medium-deep pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the lentils until tender, about 20 minutes.
  2. Strain the lentils, reserving the cooking liquid. Pour a little of the liquid over the lentils to prevent them from drying out. Discard the onion, garlic and bay leaf.
  3. Return the remaining cooking liquid to the pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  4. Boil until it has reduced to 1/2 cup, about 20 minutes. Set the reduced liquid aside to cool.
  5. Add the lentils, peppers, tomatoes and shallot to a mixing bowl.
  6. For the dressing: Whisk the olive oil vinegar, salt, and reduced lentil cooking liquid together in a separate mixing bowl.
  7. Pour the dressing over the salad, sprinkle with chives and mix well. Divide the salad among 4 bowls and garnish with the cheese.

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