Every time I try a new kind of lentil, I fall in love all over again. These delicious little legumes come in a rainbow of colors and flavors, and are used in dishes all over the world. Your local grocery store should carry a few kinds of lentils– at the very least they’ll probably have green or brown lentils. If, however, you want to branch out into the vast and exciting world of lentil-ness, (yes, that’s a technical term… okay no, no it’s not), try buying a bag of red lentils, beluga lentils, or the fancy-schmancy French green lentils. And yes, before you ask, the reason French green lentils are different from regular green lentils, is that they come with alluring accents and little tiny berets. Really. (No, not really. Of course not). This recipe for French Lentils with Dijon Vinaigrette is vegan, simple to prepare, and bursting with flavor.
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The real way you tell the difference between French lentils and regular green lentils, sadly, has nothing to do with accents or berets. (I had you fooled though, right?!) When you’re shopping for French lentils, the biggest difference you’ll see is size. French lentils are much smaller than regular green lentils, and are also a little darker. Sometimes you’ll see them labeled “Lentilles du Puy”– these are from Le Puy, France, and ONLY Le Puy, France. In theory, these are the best of the best, the Champagne to your sparkling wine. However, this also means that Lentilles du Puy are harder to find and more expensive. If you can find them, and want to try the difference, go for it. Otherwise, look for regular French green lentils. Your regular grocery store may, or may not, have these tiny legumes. If you can’t find them on your normal shopping route, try Whole Foods, anywhere that sells Bob’s Red Mill products, or anywhere with a large bulk bean section (I got mine at Jungle Jim’s). If you’re reading this and thinking, “I’m not sure I want to go on a lentil hunt,” that’s okay. This recipe works with plain green lentils too! The flavor is slightly different, and it takes 15-20 minutes longer to cook, but it’s still delicious.
Making French Lentils with Dijon Vinaigrette
To make French Lentils with Dijon sauce, start by sautéing leeks, carrots, and celery in a little bit of olive oil. Add garlic, and then increase the heat and add white wine, stirring 1-2 minutes. Reduce your heat again, and add the lentils, bay leaves, salt, and water. Bring everything to a boil, and simmer about 20 minutes. While your lentils cook, mix all the ingredients for the vinaigrette together. Once the lentils finish cooking, add the vinaigrette and stir it all up. Serve while everything is still warm with a hunk of crusty bread or as a side dish to another meal. While your guests are eating, you can regale them with lentil hunting tales. They’ll love it.
Just can’t get enough lentils? Try these:
French Lentils with Dijon Vinaigrette
- 1 TB olive oil
- 1 leek, sliced
- 2 carrots, sliced
- 2 celery sticks, sliced
- 1 TB minced garlic
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 cup French green lentils, rinsed and sorted (if substituting regular green lentils, increase cook time by 20 minutes)
- 2 bay leaves
- 2-3 tsp salt, to taste
- 1 TB Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 TB sherry vinegar (or substitute red wine vinegar)
- pinch salt + pepper, to taste
In a large saucepan or wok, heat oil on medium until it begins to shimmer. Add leek, carrots, and celery, and sauté 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 1-2 minutes. Increase heat to medium high, and add wine. Allow wine to cook down for 1-2 minutes, then lower heat to medium. Add lentils, bay leaves, 2 tsp salt, and 2 cups water. Bring mixture to a boil, and simmer about 20 minutes until most of the water has cooked down.
While lentils are cooking, mix vinaigrette ingredients together (mustard, oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper). When lentils are finished cooking, remove bay leaves and stir in vinaigrette.
Recipe adapted from: Food Network