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Lentil Salad with Goat Cheese and Mint

Little green lentils are the key ingredient that make this classic salad such a hit. Unlike the lager lentils we use for soups and Indian dishes, the small green variety holds its shape when cooked. Toss the warm lentils right away with the Lemon Vinaigrette, so they absorb all the flavors. Serve with Simple Artichoke Salad and Spicy Tomato Jam for a trio of made-ahead appetizers. It’s also delicious with crumbled feta or ricotta salata cheese

Serves 4 to 6

1 1/2 cups small green lentils, about 11 ounces

6 cups cold water

1 bay leaf

1/2 medium red onion, finely diced, about 1/2 cup

Champagne vinegar

Lemon Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

1 medium carrot, peeled and finely diced about 1/2 cup

1/2 fennel bulb, finely diced, about 1/2 cup

3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

Salt and pepper

3 ounces creamy goat cheese, about 1/2 cup

Rinse the lentils and place them in a large saucepan with the water and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes.

While the lentils are cooking, bring a small pot of water to a boil. Drop in the onions for 20 seconds, drain and toss with 1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar.

Make the vinaigrette.

Drain and toss the warm lentils in a large bowl with the vegetables and vinaigrette. Set aside to marinate for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally as the salad cools. Add the mint and season with salt, pepper, and a splash of Champagne vinegar, if needed. Remove the bay leaf. Crumble the goat cheese over the salad and serve. 

Lemon Vinaigrette (makes about 1/2 cup)

1/2 tablespoon minced lemon zest

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Whisk everything but the oil together in a small bowl. Slowly pour the oil in, whisking constantly until emulsified.